The Story of the Story: The Illustrations of Kalamata’s Kitchen

We all know Kalamata’s kitchen table is magical. But equally as magical is how Kalamata’s world evokes a sense of wonder and beauty. It’s sensorial. It is a feast for your eyes, that you can almost smell and taste! It’s colorful, creative and wonderful. And that is thanks to the stunning illustrations of Jo Kosmides Edwards. 

Jo Edwards Childhood

Jo’s Childhood

Growing up, Jo’s Greek parents (and grandma!) were always cooking. In their Greek culture, food was always a communal event. When her dad cooked, the whole neighborhood would come over. It was quite the event. To Jo, her childhood is the embodiment of the fact that sharing food is what makes you happy. 

However, sometimes the strong Greek heritage set Jo apart from the other kids at her school. While she was having Greek salad and tzatziki, they were eating hot dogs and pizza. Despite her big family and strong support network, like most kids, she sometimes felt like an outsider. 

Kalamata's Kitchen Founders and Illustrator

The Call

When Kalamata’s Kitchen founders Derek Wallace and Sarah Thomas reached out to Jo with an idea for a book that centered on connecting people through food, Jo immediately felt right at home. After a call to talk through their idea for Kalamata, Jo thought that this sounded familiar. A little girl who comes from a culture focused on food? Who could that be? With that, Jo got to work creating different sketches of Kalamata.    

Creating Kalamata

From her first sketch, Jo set out to draw a character that reflected Derek and Sarah’s vision. But she also wanted to include some of the things she saw in herself as a child. When she was a kid, Jo felt her eyebrows and ears made her stand out. So she put big eyebrows and prominent ears into her sketch, in order to make a character that was proud of the things that had made her self-conscious as a child. In essence, Jo wanted to create the hero she wished she’d had. 

Creating the world of Kalamata's Kitchen

Creating Their World 

In creating Kalamata’s visual world, Jo wanted to create a place that looked like anyone could live in. She created Kalamata’s Kitchen to look diverse and unique. A space where it was evident the family took great pride in food. A lived-in, warm, comfortable kitchen. 

From there, she created scenes that were vibrant, exploratory and tactical. A world that was both imaginary, but also so real to so many imaginations.  

Illustration Kalamata'a Kitchen

Coming Up With New Scenes 

When Jo and Sarah start on a new book, it’s always focused on a unique food culture. And that’s Jo’s favorite part. Learning. She loves to dig in and understand the way each culture views food. Then, she dives into her imagination and the story Sarah created to draw the images that surround it, along with the tastes, smells and textures that make that food culture distinct. 

“Every time I see a new food, I want to tell everyone about it, so it’s more commonplace and we’re less limited in our food-centricity.” 

Jo Edwards Illustrator Family

Bringing Her Taste Buds Into The Process

Jo likes to include her kids on her artistic endeavors, because she wants them to understand that you have to find inspiration to make art. You have to have an adventure, meet a person or have an experience that changes how you see the world. And that’s exactly how she is trying to raise her own boys. 

“I want my kids to stay curious.” 

Kalamata’s Kitchen would absolutely not be the same without Jo’s talent, vision and extraordinary imagination. And she can’t wait to bring Kalamata’s next adventure to the page in her own delicious way. 

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