Camilla Marcus (@camilla.marcus), chef and entrepreneur behind the sustainable west~bourne restaurant and ROAR (Restaurants Organizing Advocating Rebuilding) shares her insights on being a mother, and multi-faceted business owner.
How do you balance all of your amazing initiatives with motherhood?
I sort of hate the word balance because it’s really a mirage. I think of it as a life in flow – it goes back and forth, something over weeks, something minute to minute. My ethos for my life, in general, is that it takes a village – you need to develop one, allow yourself to lean on them without judgment or guilt and take care of them too, and to have enough structure to make sense but not too much to be disappointed. You never know when you need to make an audible play.
How were you inspired to start your brand, West~bourne?
I wanted to embrace conscious capitalism in the food world — to run a business that stood for more and harnessed how vastly food can indeed change our planet. We make more decisions about what we eat and drink in our daily lives than pretty much anything else, so west~bourne was founded with the mission to help you do that while having an incredible impact on your community and the environment.
Can you walk us through the beginning of your professional career?
I’ve always been a very left-brained, right-brained person. I was a painter growing up and I always needed a creative outlet, but I was also very focused on math and science — and those were the two areas I excelled in the most when I was younger in school. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve gotten more comfortable with that, and I know what a knack it is to be a generalist and to be well-rounded. I think we live in a world that pushes specialization, but I just don’t agree with that camp. In my younger days in my career, my resumé was all over the place and no one could put me in a lane or figure out what my singular superpower was. And it was hard to get jobs like that. But it was also hard working for myself and being an entrepreneur, and I’m so grateful now to be a generalist — it has paid for itself in spades.
How has being a mother changed your professional journey?
It is hard to be an entrepreneur and a mom. It’s hard to have a job and be a mom. I always say, being an entrepreneur is in some ways harder because it’s 24/7, but in a lot of ways, it’s easier because you get to decide your own schedule and you are fortunate enough to set the tone and culture with your team. I think becoming a mother has vastly enhanced my capabilities as a leader, helping me develop more self awareness, compassion, drive, and time management than I ever thought possible. I am even more passionate now about child care opportunities and structural changes needed in this country to better support parents. I am also on a mission to create an example of a company where parents can flourish in any role they choose.
Do you have any tips for introducing toddlers to new foods?
We believe strongly in baby-led weaning, and we start food earlier than most, at about 4 months once we’ve finished sleep training. As food is so central to our family and our lives, it’s something I’m always excited to introduce and want our children to have a positive relationship with. We never really did purees much, and we always introduce new food categories, cuisine types, and ingredients. Our motto as a family is you don’t have to like it but you have to give it a try. Giving the space and time to our babies to explore all kinds of foods from the start, well before they are really even needing to eat. This allows for exploration and experimentation without the pressure. As our kids are growing, we spend a lot of time at farmers markets where they can pick what they want to eat and try out in real time, then we cook in the kitchen together for most meals. My two year old son in particular is a passionate cook and loves to help, and we even tried a home mushroom grow kit through Small Hold recently that got our son super excited about different kinds of mushrooms. We are fortunate to have a home garden now that also helps us learn about and connect to where their food is grown. For us, it’s all about the experience that is both fun and educational to keep them engaged with what they are eating.
What are some tips for families wanting to be more sustainable with their food choices?
To me, there are a few ways to begin your sustainability journey that are approachable. Be mindful about shopping – buy local as much as you can and only what you know you will make. Focus on plant-based dishes as much as you feel comfortable. Give your would-be food scraps a second life through stocks, soups, smoothies, or sauces. Compost, even on your countertop.
Can you tell us more about ROAR and IRC and how those came about?
I’m a founding member of ROAR and the national organization, Independent Restaurant Coalition. I started realizing that our industry was going to be so disproportionately harmed by COVID-19, and also recognizing very quickly after we all closed our doors, that lawmakers really had no idea what was happening in our industry. Like I said, I’m a problem solver. I’m the first to jump in the water. We realized that without coming together for the first time in a big way before, both in New York state as well as across the country, the situation was going to get more dire than it already was. Our goal is simple: to create sustainability, happiness, and equity for independent restaurants and our teams.
Camilla Marcus is a chef and founder of the west~bourne brand, which includes a restaurant and online retail store, both of which offer healthy, natural and sustainable food. She is a co-founder of ROAR (Restaurants Organizing Advocating Rebuilding) and a founding member of the IRC (Independent Restaurant Coalition). To learn more about Camilla read her story, and follow her on Instagram at @camilla.marcus.