Taking Notes

This Chef Mom Owns 2 Michelin-Starred Restaurants. Here’s What She Feeds Her Toddler.

We spoke with Margarita Kallas-Lee, co-owner and pastry chef of Scratch Restaurant Group, about her go-to meals.

by Dyana Goldman
Chef Margarita Kallas-Lee cooks with her toddler daughter, Aurelia.
Margarita Kallas-Lee

Margarita Kallas-Lee is not a regular mom; she's a cool mom. She is the co-owner and executive pastry chef of Scratch Restaurants Group, which has received Michelin Stars for both Sushi by Scratch Restaurants: Montecito and Pasta|Bar Los Angeles. As the restaurant group's name implies, Kallas-Lee focuses on creating everything from scratch, like her signature housemade brioche and freshly baked sourdough bread. That philosophy also applies to how she goes about feeding her 19-month-old daughter, Aurelia.

I spoke with Margarita as she was en route to her newest venture, Wolf and Wheat, a bakery in Austin, Texas, about what she feeds her toddler. Let's just say we should all aspire to have a palate like little Aurelia, whose favorite foods include venison and wagyu beef.

How did you introduce solids to Aurelia?

"When we started solids, we did our best to make all the purees ourselves," Kallas-Lee shares. "For example, we used fresh organic spinach and pureed it with breast milk ... We really wanted her to have the best building blocks with food."

When Kallas-Lee started solids with her daughter (at 6 months old), she was already back to work. "It was daunting. Planning it out, it's a lot of work. It was scary; I'm not going to lie." I couldn't have agreed more.

When starting solids, there's a lot of discussion about the old ways (i.e., spoon-feeding your baby purees) and the newer philosophy of baby-led weaning (a method of skipping spoon-feeding and introducing finger foods right from the start). Kallas-Lee said she did a little bit of both. "We gave her things like carrots, softer things like strawberries, and bread… she's obsessed with bread!"

As a busy mom, you know there's not always time to prepare everything. Are there any prepackaged foods you recommend?

"There are these Lil' Puffs by Lesser Evil, and I'm honestly addicted to them!" Margarita shares. She's also a fan of the yogurt kid pouches by Cocojune and organic food like the bars by Yumi. As far as purees, Margarita only goes for the refrigerated ones, as these typically have fewer preservatives than those that are shelf-stable.

Margarita also stressed her belief that a "fed baby is a happy baby."

"Everyone is doing the best they can,” she tells me. “People just don't have time sometimes [to prepare food]. As long as your kid is happy, healthy, and eating, that's all that is important." Preach!

What are your go-to meals for your toddler?

Leave it to a chef to introduce a new food I've never heard of: amaranth. Kallas-Lee loves to cook this "underrated" grain for her daughter: "No one ever uses it; it's really good, has a lot of minerals, is super rich in iron and magnesium, and it only takes like 20 minutes to boil and cook it." (*Adds to cart.)

And since she is so time-strapped, she doesn't do a lot of prepping. It's only on her days off, from time to time, that she will prepare something like a stock or a big stew that will last a couple of days. "All the other day when we're super busy, we do something quick, like eggs — a little omelet — or buckwheat."

You heard it here first — buckwheat is an emerging trend in the food industry and another of Kallas-Lee's go-to grains. She explains that buckwheat is shelf-stable and takes only about 15 minutes to prepare.

"You can sautee a couple of vegetables and throw that on there, you can do it more like a cereal, or you can add some honey on there [once your child is older than one year]. There are so many different ways you can go with buckwheat." She recommends getting the toasted buckwheat and says that places like Whole Foods also sell buckwheat cereal.

One other buckwheat favorite? Pancakes! Here's Kallas-Lee's recipe:

Buckwheat Pancakes

  • 1 banana
  • 2T soaked chia seeds
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk ( milk alternative can be a substitute )
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat flour
  • Combine everything in a blender and blend until smooth.
  • Prepare a saute pan, buttered or oiled with coconut oil, and spoon in the batter, flip, and serve when cooked through entirely.

Can you tell us what "a day in the life" of your daughter looks like, food-wise?

  • Breakfast: buckwheat porridge with a dollop of housemade cultured butter
  • Lunch: an egg scramble with spinach and a side of cut-up bell peppers and broccoli
  • Dinner: amaranth cooked in bone broth (prepared ahead of time) topped with napa cabbage, bok choy, and a boiled carrot

As a pastry chef, where do you stand on giving your daughter sweets and sugar?

"She hasn't really had sugar yet. On her birthday this last year, I made her a cake using coconut sugar — barely any — and buckwheat flour."

The little bit of sugar she has had has come from Kallas-Lee's famous breads, but even those, she says, don't contain too much sugar. The mom chef told me that the cake was delicious, and it made her feel good knowing she was serving a dessert with all-natural sugars. So, naturally, I asked for the recipe.

Aurelia's First Birthday Cake

  • 2 cups buckwheat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups almond flour
  • 1 1/2t salt
  • 1t baking soda
  • 4t baking powder
  • 1 cup butter ( melted )
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil ( melted )
  • 1/3 cup pureed banana
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 cups milk
  • Combine both flours, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Whisk.
  • In a separate bowl, add the eggs and whisk them; then add the milk. Add the pureed banana.
  • Prepare your melted butter and coconut oil.
  • Combine the flour mixture with the egg mixture, and whisk until mixed thoroughly.
  • Pour this entire batter into a 9x13 Pyrex; you can also use cake pans and separate the cake batter evenly into 2-3 cake pans.
  • Bake it in the Pyrex at 375F on a low fan, or without fan until done, 20-40 minutes, depending on your oven. Use a cake tester to ensure the cake is completely baked through.


  • 1 can organic coconut milk with cream
  • Put the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator overnight.
  • The next day, scoop the fat off the top and whip it with a drop of honey.
  • Spread on the cake.

Do you have any tips for parents who have fussy toddlers when it comes to eating?

Like most of us, Kallas-Lee is no stranger to the fickle whims of a toddler's tastebuds.

"My daughter went through a phase where she threw everything on the ground, and I did a lot of research on the best way to approach that. I just let her do what she needed to do, with her experience with food, and then an hour later, she would ask for food." She added that sometimes sitting Aurelia down on her lap and eating the same food together also helped.

She recommends that parents avoid forcing their kids to eat food but, rather, give them room to experiment.