Kids challenge taste buds at Kalamata's Tasting Tour

Robin Gibson

By Robin Gibson / Photos by Live Wilder Photography courtesy of Kalamata's Kitchen

“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.” — Taste Bud pledge

During theCharleston Wine + FoodFestival, we brought news of a special tasting event catering to the littlest among us. The event was a smashing success as it took over theChildren’s Museum of the LowcountrySaturday, March 7, to rave reviews.

Uniting picky eaters and young culinary enthusiasts,Kalamata’s Kitchenhosted its secondKalamata's Tasting Touras part of a 12-city tour. From two to twelve, kids of all ages were treated like VIPs as they ‘traveled with their taste buds' through flavors representing a variety of different cultures. Charleston chefs prepared black-eyed-pea salad, yu xiang eggplant, chopped prime beef brisket, chicken skewer with tzatziki and iced blueberry mini biscuits, to name a few of the kid-sized bites offered.

“We want kids to be treated with respect, especially when it comes to adventures with food,” said Sarah Thomas, world-class sommelier and author of the Kalamata’s Kitchen book series. “These kids were curious, courageous, and so much fun. As the organizers, we don’t aim for them to ‘like’ every food, but our goal is to create an environment where they are empowered to try new foods on their own accord.”

During the food tour, kids received a VIP badge and a Food Adventure Passport stamped each time they tried a new food.Stella’s,Xiao Bao Biscuit,Lewis Barbecue,Leon’s Oyster Shop andCallieswere in on the action each representing a different stamp. Full passports earned kids a temporary tattoo featuring the beloved Kalamata and Al Dente characters.

“They love it! He’s eating eggplant, and it’s amazing. It’s totally opening their palate.” — Ashley Blaize

“We were so honored to join Charleston chefs in creating an experience that inspired these kids to try new foods,” said Derek Wallace, Co-founder of Kalamata’s Kitchen. “When parents are blown away that their child tried kimchi, or any of the diverse foods our chef partners create, we know we’ve done our job.”

Featuring a Kalamata’s Kitchen display, kids posed next to Kalamata and her pal Al Dente, and met with Thomas. The team aims to create culinary experiences that maintain all the impressive culinary standards offered to adults during international food tours and festivals, but with added flair and fun for kids and families, said Thomas.

“We are essentially hosting twelve parties all across the U.S. designed specifically to make kids the VIP,” said Wallace. “The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry was a perfect location to bring Kalamata’s passion for curiosity and adventure to life.”

The Kalamata’s Kitchen team shared the Taste Bud pledge with new ‘taste buds’ at the museum. Kids and parents joined team members in taking the 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.”

Parents approve

Charleston mom Ashley Baize raved about her son’s experience. “They love it! He’s eating eggplant, and it’s amazing. It’s totally opening their palate.”

Just as enthused was Brooke Sperduto who related the experience for her kids to theCulinary Villagefestivities happening down the street. “I found myself teaching them to hold the plate like they were at a food festival,” she said. “It’s cool because now they know that there are events that are all about trying new food. When they’re older and go to the Charleston Wine & Food Festival, they will know what it’s all about. They’ll know more about it than I do.”

Sperduto added an appreciation for flavors her children don’t have access to because she doesn’t prepare them herself. “I try to make new things for them to try, but some foods here today definitely aren’t in my wheelhouse. This was a fun chance to try new bites and discover foods they didn’t know they’d like,” she explained. “Some of it was outside of their comfort zone but it was great to see them try them all.”

What’s next

Besides completing the tour, the food adventure brand for kids and families recentlyannounced partnershipswithImagine Kids+Familyto bring Kalamata to life through an animated series, andPenguin Random Houseas a book publishing partner. Kalamata’s Kitchen has introduced a series of books in partnership with celebrated chefs, including Chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, and has received endorsements from famous ‘Taste Buds’ like Chrissy Teigen and Padma Lakshmi.

Organizers say the local tasting tour events help expand Kalamata’s reach, offering diverse, delectable foods made by celebrated local chefs across the U.S.

Through stories, food adventure gear, live events and theTaste Bud Travel Guide(a nationwide guide to family-friendly restaurants), Kalamata’s Kitchen is fulfilling its mission of creating a more compassionate and curious generation of eaters. Every day, they work to inspire little ‘taste buds’ around the world to try new flavors and connect with each other over something delicious, said Burk. 

After Charleston,Kalamata’s Tasting Tourwill travel toAustin, Texas;Boston, Mass.; Denver, Colo.; Los Angeles, Calif.; Milwaukee, Wis.; Nashville, Tenn.; New Orleans, La.; New York, N.Y.; Seattle, Wash., and Washington, D.C.

Kalamata’s Kitchen

Kalamata’s Kitchen, LLC. launched in 2018 and was Co-founded by Derek Wallace and Sarah Thomas with a mission of helping kids learn about new cultures through adventures with food. The brand offers engaging live events, a collection of books featuring renown chefs, the Taste Bud Travel Guide, games and kids kitchen tools.

Featuring Kalamata and her pal Al Dente, the brand nurtures a curiosity for food and cultures with some of the world’s most celebrated chefs. In partnership with Imagine Entertainment Kids+Family, Kalamata will come to life in an animated series. Her books will reach children and families everywhere in partnership with Penguin Random House.

Together, the team and partners of Kalamata’s Kitchen set out to create a new generation of curious and compassionate eaters around the world. Kalamata’s Kitchen invites friends to take the Taste Bud Pledge and explore her world