We first met the charming Kalamata, a plucky kid exploring the world through food, back in 2018. In her first book adventure from the Kalamata’s Kitchen team, she met Portland, Maine chef Ilma Lopez and learned about dishes the chef’s abuelita made in her homeland of Venezuela. She’s an adventurous eater inviting other kids to take the Taste Bud Pledge: “I promise to keep my mind open and my fork ready, to try each new food at least twice, and share what’s on my plate when someone doesn’t have enough.”

Since that first book, Kalamata has been on two more adventures, one to visit Pittsburgh chef Trevett Hooper to learn all about the many varieties of apples in “Kalamata’s Orchard Adventure” and in the latest book, “A la Kalamata,” she discovers the flavors of Southern France through the eyes of famed chef Eric Ripert.

While it’s been less than two years since the Kittery, Maine-based company launched their Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, Derek Wallace and writer Sarah Thomas along with illustrator Jo Edwards are bringing Kalamata even more places thanks to a brand new book deal with Random House Children’s Books and an exciting TV deal with Imagine Entertainment. Now, even more kids and grownups will be part of Kalamata Kitchen’s mission “to create a more compassionate generation of eaters by showing grownups and children alike how fun food adventures can be and how this big, flavorful world is smaller than it may seem.”

The first book in the series for Random House will be published in 2021, although the team is still brainstorming the topic.

“We’re deep in the process of concepting that,” said co-founder Derek Wallace. “But I think that it’s safe to say that this story will be brought to life by (co-founder) Sarah (Thomas) and since Sarah is the child of Indian immigrants, we think that the way that the first story comes to life will be heavily based on our character that we described as having roots in South India.”

Wallace said he also sees the book concept expanding into other print platforms beyond the current narrative books.

“We’re discussing different ways that it could come to life in addition to the narrative version that we currently tell, whether it’s activity books, cookbooks, sticker books or board books. There are a lot of different ways that we could age it up, age it down, and we’ve been having those conversations with the publisher. The current agreement is for us to focus on the picture book itself, but we see a lot of extensions in the publishing space.”

The Kalamata’s Kitchen team also recently signed a deal with Imagine Entertainment Kids + Family which will develop an animated series for preschool kids and families, encouraging them to become curious, courageous and compassionate “Taste Buds.”

“It’s coming together as an animated series and that could be either a broadcasting network or streaming services,” said Wallace. “Obviously, there’s a ton of amazing streaming platforms and we’re having those conversations right now. We’ve already gotten interest from some of the biggest names, which I can’t say, and we’re in the beginning process of the development of it. We’ll hopefully be moving forward to meeting with some of those platform partners and finding out who understands the mission and the message and think it’s perfectly aligned with their audience.”

In addition to expanding the book series through the Random House partnership and developing the animated series, the Kalamata’s Kitchen offers culinary products, puts on culinary events, and partners with local chefs and restaurants. Their Taste Bud Travel Guide includes 16 U.S. cities, each with listings for Kalamata-approved restaurants that “will welcome your family and delight your palate.”

Wallace says he’s eager to further spread the word about trying new foods and opening up your mind and heart to new experiences and people through Kalamata’s adventures.

“In many cases, kids are actually more open-minded on food than adults. We held an event where Botanica (in Portsmouth, New Hampshire) made a smoked trout dip, and the adults coming through would make faces like, “I’m not going to eat that.” It was positioned directly next to the banana pudding from Ore Nell’s Barbeque (Kittery, Maine) and the kids were eating seconds of the smoked trout and leaving the banana pudding. It wasn’t because the banana pudding wasn’t delicious, it was delicious. It was just that they were so taken by the flavor.”

One of the inspirations for Kalamata’s Kitchen was the show “Chef’s Table” as well as the great Anthony Bourdain, both of which helped Wallace realize just how many people are out there with wonderful life stories anyone can relate to. While many of those stories can be found in the books and soon the animated series, the team also meets chefs in cities all over the country and helps kids meet those chefs, too. Their current tour includes events in Columbus, Charleston and Austin, where they partner with local chefs and offer food and activities, spreading the word and asking more grownups and kids to take the Taste Bud Pledge.

“Our Taste Bud Pledge is really a cornerstone of our brand. We’ll be talking about the whole idea of having an open mind and trying things and then sharing things. Our values perspective is about being curious, being courageous and being compassionate, and we think that food is just such an amazing platform not just for kids but also for grownups to understand that your biases can be quickly broken down by food, and what you can learn about people and cultures and traditions through that platform is something that you’ll always remember.”

Learn more about Kalamata’s Kitchen, find the books and see their guide to Kalamata-approved restaurants at kalamataskitchen.com. You can take the Taste Bud Pledge, find out where to see them on tour and even find some cool kitchen gear for kids.

Rachel Forrest is a former restaurant owner who lives in Austin, Texas. She can be reached by email at rforrest@gatehousemedia.com.