Help, Please: Zak Normandin of Little Duck Organics

Chief correspondent and mom SuChin Pak finds out how other parents do it

little ducks!

In honor of Father’s Day, I’m interviewing the first ever dad for “Help, Please.” Meet Zak Normandin, the founder of Little Duck Organics and father of three. Little Duck Organics is the only packaged food I buy for my son these days. Yes, it’s awesome that I don’t have to worry about strange ingredients sneaking into his snacks — but beyond the purity of the food, how can you not love a guy who started his own company when he couldn’t find what he wanted for his kids at the grocery store? — SuChin Pak

Congrats: You’re our first dad of the series! How does it feel to enter uncharted waters?
I’m honored! Let’s hope I don’t disappoint.

I think every new parent has a moment when they realize the food on the grocery shelves may not be as good as the packaging says. But you went a step further and decided to take matters into your own hands. What triggered that?
After I finished my time in the Coast Guard, I began working as a design consultant, eventually for food companies. When I became a parent and started spending time in the baby aisle, I quickly saw the opportunity to create an option for parents that was more nutritious and better designed than the products that were available at the time. And that’s how Little Duck Organics was born.

little ducks!

What’s one thing every parent should do before buying baby food?
First, you look for the most colorful package in the kids’ food aisle at your local store; then, make sure there is a big duck on it. In all honestly, our brand aside, reading ingredient panels is an eye-opening experience. I highly recommend it.

Who taste-tests the recipes?
We have all types of eaters on our team (gluten-free, Southern and Latin roots, vegetarians, meat lovers) and we all absolutely love to eat. It’s a somewhat informal process. Samples come in and team members slowly gather around the kitchen table or by the couch, dipping their hands into what may become our new apple supply or our newest fruit blend, candidly sharing their thoughts. “Too sour.” “Really? I like it really sour.” 

We also have a great group of parents and bloggers that gives feedback before launching a new product. They (and their kiddos) help guide us a bit — whether it comes to the recipe or the actual packaging.

When was the last time you channeled Cliff Huxtable, your hero fantasy dad?
While I know our brand has referred to Cliff Huxtable as a champion, I’d say Clark Griswold from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is much more of a hero to me these days. He really knows how to embrace the ups and downs of being a dad and does everything he can to make sure his kids are having fun. He has the right intentions all the time, even if it doesn’t always pan out the way he planned. I feel like that sometimes.

little ducks!

Your “Whoa, I’m a parent” moment?
When I saw my oldest, Taylee, for the first time (she is now 7). It’s a crazy feeling. Everything changed for me at that moment. Of course, I was anxious and stressed out, too. Once you realize you have the responsibility of another person, it really puts things into perspective. At that moment, I knew I had to be the best provider for Taylee that I could possibly be. It certainly has helped motivate the growth of Little Duck over the years.

The most important bit of advice you’d give your friends without kids: Raising children has been one the most rewarding experiences in my life thus far. A lot of people spend a good portion of their lives looking for that perfect connection with another person. Kids make that connection possible in a real, tangible way. The love they provide is truly unconditional — it’s the truest, purest form of love there is. I love them so much and they love me back. No strings attached.

Something you’ve learned from watching other parents with kids: Patience is such a big part of parenting. Seeing parents lose their cool when they are in public has made me aware of what I do not want to be like as a parent. Parenting is stressful, for sure, but it’s not worth it to get worked up if your kids are making a mess at a restaurant or horsing around on an airplane. Or eating dirt. Or licking each other. It’s all good — kids will be kids.

Your kid(s) are writing a book about you. What’s the title?
More Pancakes, Dad.

little ducks!

Rule you never break: Don’t skip breakfast. Well, I do break this rule sometimes, but in a perfect world I wouldn’t. Breakfast is such an amazing, important, beautiful part of life. Make sure your OJ is fresh. And your syrup is real. For real.

The best thing about being a parent: Cuddling.

The worst thing about being a parent: Time. I know that one day I’m going to miss the time that I have with the kids at this age so much.

I try to achieve work/life balance by: Trying. I give it my best shot every day and hope that one day I can make it happen — knowing almost certainly that I never will.

Say no to: Cream in your coffee. Say yes to: Adventures. And risks.

The thing no one tells you about parenthood: You’re never going to be ready. Just take everything that comes at you and do your best to figure it out. Nothing will be perfect. Clothes will be dirty. And you will probably need to feed your kids McDonald’s at some point. It’s going to be okay.

The best piece of parenting advice I’ve received: Be consistent. And make sure they know that you love them.

Know a parent we should feature in Help, Please? Give us a tweet @dailycandykids and @suchinpak.

little ducks!

Photos: Niki Dankner & Stephania Stanley / DailyCandy