Baristanet Profile: Koyalee Chanda

Name: Koyalee Chanda

Where do you live? Montclair, just up the street from Watchung Plaza.

When did you move there? 

We moved to Montclair in the fall of 2015 (from Brooklyn, surprise, surprise). It’s been two and a half years, but we still feel like newbies. Our family is: my husband Neal, and our two daughters, ages 4 and 9. Our beloved dog died the week before we moved (I guess she REALLY didn’t want to move to Jersey), and we haven’t had the heart or bandwidth to replace her. So it’s weird that we aren’t known as dog people here, even though we totally are!

Where did you grow up? Technically, I grew up in Holyoke, Massachusetts, but whenever someone asks me this question, I usually say “near Northampton, Mass” because it’s more reflective of my sensibility. I admit that it is a weird instinct of mine.

How do you make a living? OR What is your everyday passion?

I create and produce content for kids, sometimes for companies like Nickelodeon and sometimes through my company Inner Dog Productions. I think I was always destined to do this type of work. When I was little, I would spend hours in my room making up stories with my stuffed animals. I didn’t think that was laying the groundwork for anything – until as an adult, I found myself pursuing a career in kids media and even getting to direct Muppets.

Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of working on some amazing shows for kids, including Blue’s Clues, The Backyardigans, and then more recently Wallykazam, for which I was a Co-Executive Producer. My most recent project is a family-friendly comedy podcast called This Podcast Has Fleas, from WNYC Studios. I co-created it with my friend and colleague Adam Peltzman (Odd Squad, Wallykazam). It’s about a pet dog and a cat who live in a house together and play out their rivalry through dueling podcasts. Each episode, the pets have to navigate some complication of suburban life – like a sleepover party, or bath day, or a trip to the vet. We keep hearing that families love listening together – which is exactly what we were hoping for!

Coffee, tea or … ? Coffee and then an IPA in the evening.

What’s your idea of a perfect weekend day? I’m going to pretend it’s summer for a second and say: Making brunch in the house and eating it outside; and then some outdoor activity with the kids – bike to the Walnut Street farmer’s market or a hike in Mills Reservation. Then a spontaneous BBQ with friends where everyone brings whatever is in their fridge and throws it on the grill.

What’s your favorite local restaurant? Marcel Café and Bakery! I would eat there every day if I could. I used to exclusively order breakfast food there, but recently, I ventured into the lunch options, and it was just as amazing.

What’s on your nightstand? All the earrings I’ve worn this week; multiple water glasses and a smattering of kids books. Oh, and lip balm.

What are you listening to? 

My household is officially sick of Hamilton. Though we put it on the other day after a long hiatus and, damn, it is still so genius. On my own, I’m listening to Pod Save America. I find it weirdly comforting. And when I’m with the kids, the cast recording from SpongeBob The Musical.

What is your current indulgence? A cheeseburger from Diesel and Duke.

What talent you would most like to have? I am a terrible singer and that makes me so so sad.

What’s the worst-kept (or best-kept!) secret about Montclair? 

Hands down, Bivio Pizzeria at 107 Pine Street. (h/t to my friend Dana Casey) The best pizza we’ve had since we moved to NJ. The atmosphere reminds me of Lucali in Carroll Gardens, and the pizza itself is more like Motorino in the East Village.

What do you hope they say about you at your funeral? 

“I will also miss her guacamole.”

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