Jack Zhang and young son Levi, in matching tuxedoes

Cultivating a Curious Palate, with Jack Zhang

“I see this as a culinary journey that I’m taking him on. I’m trying to prepare all different types of foods, from different cultures, with different ingredients, and just getting his feedback and opening up his palate more — and hopefully sparking curiosity through that.” ~ Jack Zhang

Instagram and TikTok sensation chef Jack Zhang, aka @CookingForLevi, has some things to teach the rest of us about the adventure that is food and toddlers. His delightful videos are proof that bringing a little curiosity into the kitchen can make mealtime magic happen. Young Levi is a curious eater, eagerly joining his parents on the culinary journey they’re offering.

Jack and his wife Emmy have just come out with Cultivating a Curious Palate, a cookbook of the delicious and exotic dishes Jack has been making for Levi. How could I not ask for a chat?

“I think curiosity is what really inspired me and drove me, because every time I made something I would be, like, how I can make this better, how can I improve on this?”

Listen to Choose to be Curious #206: Cultivating a Curious Palate, with Jack Zhang

Jack and Emmy have found their way to some terrific curiosity (and parenting) practices: they provide a sense of safety in and for exploration; they make their own interests and enthusiasm contagious; they prime their young son for the adventures ahead; and they serve as curious role models themselves, setting Levi up for positive encounters with novel experiences.

I haven’t stopped smiling since we spoke.

Check out Cooking for Levi!

You can order Cultivating a Curious Palate in paperback or eBook from Amazon.

Susan Engel would be proud of Jack and Emmy, Check out her book The Hungry Mind: The Origins of Curiosity in Childhood, and my interview with her in the Curiosity Studies Series, “Why Should This Be So?” with Susan Engel.

Special thanks to Jennifer Mendelsohn, who pointed me to Jack. A journalist, genealogist and gifted storyteller, Jennifer is a people connecter. She played a special role in another C2BC episode many years ago when she helped figure out what became of my mother-in-law’s long lost father.

Theme music by Sean Balick; “Plum King” by Molerider, via Blue Dot Sessions.

You can subscribe to Choose to be Curious on Apple Podcasts and now on Spotify

Wear your curiosity on your sleeve. Check out the Choose to be Curious shop!

Cover of cookbook named Cultivating a Curious Palate. Shows young child with lots of fresh foods around him.

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