'Cream of Wheat's' Current Mascot Is Based On A Real Chef, Frank White

Emily Becker
Photo credit: Cream of Wheat
Photo credit: Cream of Wheat

From Women's Health

  • Cream of Wheat has announced that it will be "reviewing" its packaging.

  • The product has always featured the image of a Black chef.

  • The current chef was based on a chef named Frank White.

B&G Foods, the company that owns Cream of Wheat, announced this week that it will be reviewing the product's packaging, specifically its Black chef mascot in light of recent anti-racism protests and ongoing criticism that the image perpetuates racist stereotypes. The brand is the fourth in a string of companies—Aunt Jemima, Uncle Ben's, and Mrs. Butterworth's—that have recently pledged to reevaluate their packaging and logos.

"We are initiating an immediate review of the Cream of Wheat brand packaging," B&G Foods said in a statement. "We understand there are concerns regarding the Chef image, and we are committed to evaluating our packaging and will proactively take steps to ensure that we and our brands do not inadvertently contribute to systemic racism. B&G Foods unequivocally stands against prejudice and injustice of any kind."

Since its debut over 100 years ago, the image of a smiling Black chef has been used to sell Cream of Wheat. But, what is exactly is the history of the food brand's mascot, and was the controversial character based on a real person? Here’s everything you need to know:

The current chef replaced Cream of Wheat's first (and much more problematic) mascot.

When the hot breakfast cereal launched in the 1890s, the product featured a chef named "Rastus," a caricature of Black Americans who was dim-witted and spoke in broken English, according to CNN, and whose name is now considered a racial slur.

The image used today is likely based on Frank White, a chef from Michigan.

While Cream of Wheat has stated that current chef image is based on a photo of a chef working in a Chicago restaurant, according to Ferris State University, the company never bothered to record the man's name. However, Frank White, a chef from Michigan that the university describes as "well traveled" is said to have told friends and neighbors that he was the model for the Cream of Wheat chef. When he died in 1935, the local newspaper described him as someone who had "posed for an advertisement of a well-known breakfast food."

White was a first-generation immigrant to the U.S.

White immigrated to the U.S. from Barbados in 1875 and became a naturalized citizen in 1890, Ferris State reported.

He was much more successful than his 'Cream of Wheat' counterpart.

While the company continued to depict its chef as someone who was happy to serve others (and still used problematic language) in its ads, White worked as a chef in cities and on trains and steamships, according to Ferris State University. He eventually settled down and ran his own restaurant, the Holly House.

White was buried in an unmarked grave in his hometown.

According to the Mid Michigan Genealogical Society, the chef's (and breakfast cereal icon) legacy was almost lost completely to history. In 2007, CBS reported that a granite gravestone was placed at the location where White was buried that was previously referenced as an "unmarked colored grave" in city records.

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