When you find yourself breaking bread with legendary chefs Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud, you don’t expect Froot Loops and Special K cereal to be on the menu.
But both were on the menu during a six-course cereal tasting menu that Kellogg hosted for some members of the media at the company’s New York City restaurant in Times Square. The menu included a chilled carrot-ginger soup with Froot Loops, macaroni & cheese with lobster and Rice Krispie, and a beef duo that featured Raisin Bran. All the dishes were inspired by classics conceptualized by Keller and Boulud (though neither cooked that evening, they both were seated at the table).
For American-born Keller, cereal is familiar fare. “I think we all grew up on cereal,” he told Fortune and other members of the media during the meal. He recalled that one dish he loved as a kid was french toast made with Kellogg’s (K) Corn Flakes. His favorite cereal as a kid was Frosted Flakes (because of Tony the Tiger) though as a teen, he preferred General Mills’ (GIS) Cheerios.
Boulud was raised on a farm in the French countryside, so for him, a dinner made with classic American cereals didn’t invoke childhood memories. As he recalled, his “breakfast of champions” were sourdough bread, homemade jams, eggs and pork belly. The cereal found on the farm—well, that was served to the animals.
But today, New York-based Boulud does find himself eating cereal with his young, American-raised son. Though it is often paired with yogurt, a more trendy food these days as cereal’s popularity has lessened. “The secret to breakfast is that 75% of it needs to be ready the night before,” Boulud said. “Starting from scratch in the morning is difficult.”
While the fine dining meal had little to do with Kellogg’s big business at breakfast, the creativity featured at Kellogg’s menu is part of a push by the Big Food maker to think more inventively about how it presents classic cereal brands to the public. The Kellogg restaurant space is critical to that mission, an all-day cereal store it opened last summer to engage with more consumers. Recently, Kellogg used the space to unveil some wacky Pop-Tarts.
“We are really committed to re-imaging cereal and what cereal can be,” Jeremy Harper, senior director of marketing at Kellogg, told Fortune. “Most people eat cereal with milk and love it that way. But we see people want to personalize and customize their food more. And cereal is a phenomenal base of food people can play with.”
Across the industry, cereal sales have softened as consumer tilt toward fare that require some cooking, including eggs and frozen breakfast entrees. U.S. ready-to-eat cereal sales declined 3% in the 52-week period ending Feb. 25, according to Nielsen retail measurement data. In the most recent year, Kellogg reported that the cereal division’s sales dropped, though the company’s “core six” brands (Special K, Raisin Bran, Frosted Flakes, Mini-Wheats, Froot Loops and Rice Krispies) gained market share.
The fancy dinner Kellogg hosted featured almost all of those brands, including a doughnut dessert that was made with dried cherries, pecans, and Kellogg’s Honey Smacks and Cinnamon Frosted Flakes. Kellogg is selling those doughnuts, along with cereal bowls conceptualized by a handful of pro chefs, for $8 apiece at the cafe through Sunday. Proceeds will benefit Ment’or, a nonprofit that funds internships for young chefs.