Alumnus Profile

No More Picky Eaters

Derek Wallace is co-founder of an adventure brand teaching kids to love new food.

Derek Wallace with son Henry
Children’s book entrepreneur Derek Wallace with son Henry

This is the Taste Bud Pledge: “I promise to keep my mind open and my fork ready, to try each new food at least two times, and share what’s on my plate when someone doesn’t have enough.” It’s the creed underlying the children’s book series Kalamata’s Kitchen.

Derek Wallace ’00 BA (PSt) is co-founder and CEO of the series, with writer Sarah Thomas. The books guide kids toward acceptance and even adventure in their encounters with unfamiliar foods, each book pairing young Kalamata and her alligator sidekick Al Dente with a real-life chef. Working with Imagine Entertainment and Penguin Random House, Wallace and Thomas also produce regional tasting events, a guide to family-friendly restaurants, and kid-sized kitchen gadgets, among ways to welcome children to “new flavors and places and cultures,” Wallace says.

Wallace was a frustrated marketing strategist for a creativity-averse company when, while watching a TV chef documentary, he realized how food had opened the world to him. “I wanted that same thing for my son,” he recalls. The idea for Kalamata was immediate. He reached out to Thomas—a friend, professional sommelier, and daughter of South Indian immigrants with a feel for food’s connection to ethnic legacy. They shared “a love of experiencing life through the lens of travel, food, and beverage,” he says. Wallace quit his job and Kalamata was born.

He traces his entrepreneurship back to a policy studies class in which he co-founded an after-school program for local grade-schoolers, combining tutoring with basketball. “Kalamata’s Kitchen is no different,” he says. “It’s just being implemented on a larger scale.”