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Baby Food Chef Series: Malcolm Livingston II
The award-winning chef goes from Noma to nom nom baby food.
Chef Malcolm Livingston II is a food poet, who refers to his relationship with the kitchen as “controlled anarchy.” After living in Copenhagen, working a coveted pastry job, he landed at home in his native Bronx. He’s now into making “great salads and incredible french fries,” with his wife and daughter Elli. Your baby can also get a taste of Chef Malcolm’s cuisine if you order his Sweet Potato Cheesecake and Banana Bread Bites during your next Yumi shipment. His flavors are a smash amongst parents and babies alike. Peas and carrots move over. This is the new baby food.
For Malcolm, there’s nothing better than family time, some Soulection Radio while he cooks, and “a serious dance party in the kitchen” with his mini sous-chef Elli.
Can you tell us about your earliest memories in the kitchen? What smells and tastes stand out to you?
My earliest memories in the kitchen are watching my family cook, primarily my mother and my aunt Alice. As a child, home-cooked meals were often prepared by my mother, who would magically bless the stove after a hard day of work to whip up some amazing meals. My aunt Alice lived in the building across from my home, and she is my first memory of a dessert. Going to her house was like visiting a bakery/confection shop. Her motto was to “always have an abundance of dessert in case people come over.”
How do you think your own childhood eating shaped your palate today?
I was kind of a picky eater in the early days of my life. I’m glad my parents often introduced me to different cuisines even if I didn’t like it. The exposure allowed me to remain curious.
Do you have a favorite dish from your childhood?
My mother’s grilled red snapper, coconut rice, peas, and coleslaw. It’s a remixed Bajan dish she learned from her father in Barbados.
You started your career as the youngest kitchen staff member in one of New York’s most iconic restaurants. How did that job help shape your relationship with food?
It helped me understand the pillars of gastronomy. I had to essentially strip away what I learned in culinary school and conform to a new style of cooking, which was more realistic for fast-paced New York restaurants.
When you had your daughter, did that change how you think about food?
Absolutely! I’ll never know the feeling of carrying my daughter in the womb, but I do know that caring for her means I’m responsible for her life. Every aspect of my life has morphed into her as a priority. I want to make sure she is eating healthy. She has also inspired me to prioritize my health as well.
When you had Elli, you wanted to be sure you were feeding her healthy foods. Did you find it hard to balance parenthood with chef-hood?
It was very hard to balance at first, because I was new to parenthood and used to the long hours of chef-hood. It took me having a strong mindset to feed our child the best options.
Why do you think it’s important for parents to expand their child’s palate from a young age?
It’s important for a child’s diet to be versatile in order to expand their options. I think the more exposure children have with food, the more curiosity they will have about it.
You’ve said that family time is super important to you. What’s your favorite part of being in the kitchen with Elli?
Simply being able to spend quality time and create memories together.
Chef Malcolm’s Baby Photo