We are pleased to announce Ellis Birrell as the first recipient of the Brandon Foster Culinary Excellence Fellowship, a 24-month training program built for new and emerging chefs from diverse communities in Colorado. As a recipient of the Foster Fellowship, Ellis will receive intensive training related to nutrition, kitchen management, and food policy, as well as public speaking and networking opportunities.
As a child, Ellis loved helping out in the kitchen. “Once a week, my sister and I would each cook dinner for the family,” she said. Cooking was a way for Ellis, her sister, and their mother to spend time together as a family. It also led to a lifelong interest in cooking and an interest in a career in the culinary industry.
Ellis, who played bass trombone and studied music in New York City before moving to Denver, first learned about Project Angel Heart while doing some contract work in the kitchen during the fall of 2020. “Being in this kitchen, it was a good work environment,” said Ellis. “And we’re cooking to help people, which is fantastic.”
Ellis, who is transgender, also connected with Project Angel Heart because of the organization’s original purpose of providing nutritional support to people living with HIV/AIDS. “Knowing this organization was started to help people in the LGBTQ+ community…it makes working here feel even more meaningful.”
She sees the fellowship as an opportunity to build a career that combines her love of cooking and baking, desire to help others, and interest in advocating for people in the LGBTQ+ community.
“Transgender people don’t really get opportunities like this,” said Ellis. “There are so many things that hold us back. This opportunity wasn’t something I was expecting, but it’s an opportunity to learn so much. It gives me hope that you can fit in in a kitchen if you are trans. We have a lot to offer if we’re just given a chance.”
Thank you for supporting the Foster family in this endeavor to honor Brandon’s life and work.
Owen Ryan (he/him/his)
President & CEO