Tara Anderson, creator and owner of Dallas-based Half Pint Palates, wears a bracelet on her left wrist that sums her up perfectly: Made from a hammered spoon, it’s emblazoned with the words “farm girl.”

The charismatic founder of Half Pint Palates, a direct-delivery frozen-baby-food company that began service in 2013, started her culinary education on a livestock farm in western Kentucky. Growing up with a garden that produced most of the veggies her family ate exposed her to quality you can’t get at most grocery stores. “That’s where I learned my passion for food and flavor,” Anderson says.

With dreams of working in the culinary world, the farm girl packed her bags after high school and headed to New York City, where she graduated from The Culinary Institute of America. She went on to work as a chef at a white-tablecloth restaurant in Miami before winding up on the corporate side of dining. After a string of office jobs (and relocating to Dallas to be with her now-husband), Anderson became the executive chef of food services at PepsiCo North America, where she created dishes for chain restaurants like Applebee’s using the soda giant's snack products. Even though Anderson loved the creativity and flexibility of her job, it got harder and harder to develop recipes that didn’t reflect her own eating philosophy. “I learned the ugly truth about food and what we do to make it taste good,” Anderson says. 

After three years, Anderson quit, thinking, “This isn’t me; this isn’t how I live my life. I garden, eat sustainable food, and cook most of my meals from scratch. I don’t drink soda.” 

Recognizing a void in the market for flavorful, nourishing food for babies and small children (as well as aging adults), the now-34-year-old mother took everything she leaned from PepsiCo—how to brand a company, how to create a clear identity—and poured it into Half Pint Palates. Her globally inspired menu incorporates seasonal produce, grains, and local meats into small, nutritionally balanced portions that aren’t overwhelming for small mouths. Anderson mixes exotic and familiar ingredients, and while she offers some more traditional mainstays like white cheddar mac and cheese, she doesn’t shy away from introducing nonstandard baby foods like tamarind coconut oatmeal and ginger edamame hummus. “[People] dumb food down for kids, but we don’t need to,” Anderson says. 

By thoughtfully introducing  foods, the chef-mom has successfully turned non-vegetable, non-fish eaters into kids who’ll eat (almost) anything with joy. It’s every parent’s dream.