This feature is part of our campaign, Bloom Into You, where we celebrate women who have established strong roots within themselves, planted a seed, and grew into their own. Throughout the month, we'll be featuring women we admire who have bloomed through adversity, triumph, loss, motherhood, and connecting to nature. Ready to bloom with us?
California-bred Camilla Marcus has been molded by her connection with nature. The chef behind plant and planet positive, feel-good provisions shop west~bourne considers it her mission to eat well and do better, and to bring others along for the ride. For obvious reasons, we had to bring Marcus into our series Bloom Into You, a concept the mother of two with one on-the-way lives out on the daily.
To kick off the month, we gathered at Marcus' home tucked away in the canyons of Los Angeles with some incredible women we admire for a garden luncheon. Later, we caught up with Marcus and got candid about her own motherhood experience, her passion for food, and the planet, and how she's standing up for working mothers in her own industry.
Keep reading for our conversation.
Perelel: Did you always know you wanted to be a mother? Was there a moment that planted the seed, if you will? Or, did life just sort of happen?
Camilla Marcus: I’m actually always pretty candid about this. I wasn’t sure I wanted to have kids for a long time. It’s one of the reasons I froze my eggs when I was 30. I knew it was something I had to be fully committed to in my heart and wanted to be able to have some time to figure that out for myself. Somewhere along the journey in my mid-30s, a light went off. Funnily enough, I now dream of having four children, which is quite a comedic turn of events. I feel that our inner intuition is very strong and a guiding force if we take the time to be in tune and listen to it.
P: Our series Bloom Into You is all about sharing stories of women who have found themselves. How have you found yourself through your motherhood journey?
CM: Motherhood has been such an incredibly powerful, clarifying force. The transformation shifted my priorities and perspective even from when I was pregnant for the first time to really start channeling my energy and efforts only where it mattered and decluttering things that were taking up space without giving back something to me.
"Motherhood has been such an incredibly powerful, clarifying force."
P: How do you share your love of fresh foods and cooking with your children? What do you hope to teach them about nourishing their bodies?
CM: We love spending time together in our garden and shopping as a family at our local farmer's market. It’s very important to me that our children are raised with an appreciation for the care, dedication, patience, and thoughtfulness that goes into how our food is grown and how it gets to our plates. We also cook a lot together and talk all about where each ingredient comes from, why it’s special, and how it fuels our bodies. I see how much enjoyment and light it brings to them. We always want food and eating to be a journey and one that they are actively and integrally a part of.
P: Nature and food are obviously so interconnected and our Bloom Into You series has us reflecting on the quote, "Life begins in the garden." As a chef known for working with plants and vegetables, what does that quote mean to you?
CM: At west~bourne, our mission is to help our communities eat well, and do even better—for ourselves and our planet. Sustainability to us is about harmonizing the currently disruptive relationship between the earth’s two most complex systems—humans and nature—to support and protect present and future generations. Everything we do is through this lens.
We believe that protecting our planet can be a simple, and delicious, undertaking and you can do it in small steps: like eating more vegetables, shopping locally, recycling and composting, or even repurposing scraps in a new way. We believe it’s a collective work in progress for us all, through approachable, mindful actions that add up to make a difference.
P: Let’s talk about west~bourne for a moment, because what you did there is revolutionary. Back when west~bourne was a restaurant in NYC, you became a certified zero-waste restaurant. Why was that so important to you?
CM: I began my culinary career in New York and even helped implement a composting program at my first restaurant job. How I grew up, and my passion for protecting our environment helped me realize that I could bring those two things together to create a community space that embodied everything a restaurant could be mission-driven, vegetable-forward, and with an unapologetic focus on the wellbeing of our neighbors and team. The mission caught on quickly. Our west~bourne neighbors immediately asked us to start a local composting program for the block, making it easy to make an impact from within our four walls.
P: Where did this interconnection to nature come from? Do you feel a connection to nature when you’re in the kitchen?
CM: My Californian upbringing is the foundation for my connection to nature. Growing up in a space that prioritized where our food comes from and how it is grown made protecting our planet a top priority for me, especially as I came into my own as a chef. I feel kindred to nature in the kitchen, especially when I’m ideating and creating with ingredients I grew in my very own backyard garden. Nature and the supernatural power of plants are my guiding lights when developing our zero-waste products at west~bourne, and it’s a big part of why we’ve pledged to offset carbon emissions by donating to the Garcia River Forest Project. The project is close to my heart not only because of its proximity to home, but also because of the role it has in protecting the Redwood forests of California, allowing us to take an active role in caring for our communities.
P: Another incredible thing that you did at west~bourne was offering free childcare to your employees from 7 AM to 2 AM. Something we can get behind here at Perelel and know that is no easy feat. How did that come about?
CM: Childcare and working mothers are something I find incredibly important to talk about. Being a working mom or expecting mother in hospitality is not only hard, but also often infuriating, lonely, and pretty much unattainable with the lack of systems set in place. Hospitality workers tend to work shifts outside of the “normal” 9 to 5, making childcare pretty much impossible. These facts—not to mention the cost of childcare—make it increasingly difficult for women in the industry to choose between their careers and their families. Even before I became a mother myself, it was imperative to me that I did my part to change this for the mothers at west~bourne.
In 2019, I partnered with Vivvi, a venture-backed local childcare and early learning center. Together, we were able to launch the first hospitality-focused childcare facility and I was able to offer subsidized childcare for employees of our west~bourne cafe, with the hours needed to support parents specifically in hospitality.
I continue to advocate for accessible childcare today, alongside the brilliant leaders behind The Marshall Plan for Moms to ring the alarm on systematic change. For an industry that was created to care for others, it’s about time we care for ourselves.
"It’s about time we care for ourselves."
P: Why is it so important that we support our mothers in the workplace?
CM: Mothers are resilient, strong, and dedicated, making them an incredible asset to the workforce. It is imperative we support our mothers by listening to what they actually want, rather than imposing what we think is best on them. Building a family should be embraced and celebrated, but it’s unfortunate that so many mothers feel the need to hide this part of their life from their boss. It is my goal to be as transparent with my team as possible about my role as a mother, chef and founder, in addition to my pregnancies. It’s always with the hope that it will foster a culture where motherhood is celebrated, appreciated, and honored in the workplace. In this new virtual world, the workplace has already become more fluid, something I have always valued. As a mother and business owner myself, this new type of workplace allows women to have much more flexibility when it comes to working, building and raising a family.
P: What is west~bourne up to today?
CM: west~bourne was inspired by my California upbringing, surrounded by fresh produce, global flavors and sustainable living. Growing up in LA, I frequented farmer's markets, used food seed-to-stem, and experienced the important role that food plays throughout the many cultures and communities I was surrounded by. Each of these experiences helped me bring west~bourne to life.
west~bourne began as NYC’s first zero-waste, mission-driven restaurant, dedicated to piloting conscious capitalism in the food industry, advocating for our industry, and caring for our community. Last year, west~bourne launched a line of zero~waste, feel-good, mindfully packaged provisions that harness the supernatural power of vegetables and cultivate a pantry inspired by the natural bounty of California, from our kitchen to your home. Our latest launch? Our Avocado Oil Set, which includes a Refined Avocado Oil for cooking, grilling, sautéing, roasting, and baking; and an Organic Extra Virgin Avocado Oil for all your dipping, drizzling, and finishing needs.
P: What have you learned from other women in your community?
CM: Everything. I’m deeply fortunate to have a diverse, broad, and fierce village of women around me. Women who I turn to day in and day out, in big and small ways. To me, not much matters if you’re doing it alone—it’s the community and togetherness that makes any pursuit worthy and meaningful.
"You can’t pour from an empty cup."
P: Do you have any wellness practices that nourish you?
CM: Self-care rituals are part of my daily routine. Whether it’s starting the day with clean skincare, a quiet moment by the window with an espresso, or unwinding at night with a bath. I find it essential to care for myself. As a mama of two with one on the way, I’ve found you can’t pour from an empty cup. By prioritizing ourselves in both big and small ways I find I can show up better, clearer, and more wholeheartedly for myself and my family.
P: What has rooted you and keeps you grounded?
CM: My family is my anchor, keeping me centered on what’s important and helping me find joy and humor in the small and big moments of the everyday. It’s funny how having kids can make you notice the small delights more often, all while simultaneously maintaining a clear focus on the big picture outlook of what truly matters.
Want more? Get Camilla Marcus' recipe for a springtime garden-inspired focaccia now. Plus, nourish your body from the inside out with OB/GYN-founded vitamins for each unique stage of womanhood.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and we recommend that you always consult with your healthcare provider. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of Perelel.