Nicole Centeno is a French Culinary Institute–trained chef, and the founder and CEO of Splendid Spoon, the wellness brand combining the power of plants and the art of mindfulness in ready-to-eat meals delivered to your home. At Boston College, she studied diet therapies as treatment for illness, and has taught cooking and nutrition courses at Columbia University. She lives in Brooklyn, NY with her two sons, Grover and Caleb. Nicole is also the author of Soup Cleanse Cookbook.
What advice would you give your 12 year old self?
This is so funny because I recently found my journal from middle school and have re-acquainted myself with 12-year-old Nicole! I would tell myself to be far less concerned with what other people think of me. One of the great experiences of my 30’s has been accepting myself for who I am. We all have a unique mix of qualities and values swirling around inside us. As a 12-year-old I struggled to find my tribe because I felt so different from everyone else. But in reality, everyone feels this way! I would tell 12-year old Nicole to keep on being quirky. Others will love and respect you for being true to yourself, and it will help them feel safe to be themselves too.
What is the inspiration behind Splendid Spoon?
I wanted to heal my relationship with food and my body! The composition of an entrepreneur is complicated—I’m endlessly curious and easily distracted, yet I also notice every detail and am relentless in my pursuit of goals. It can be an aggressive and exhausting way to experience the world. When I became pregnant with my first son, it became clear that I had a fairly exhausting relationship with food as well: it was very “all or nothing”, with lots of meals eaten at restaurants, and lots of feeling bad about not eating perfectly. I was afraid that my aggressive and exhausting approach to life would not be great for my pregnant body. I was terrified that this would set me up for failure as a mom.
So I came up with a plan to invite more peace and ease into my relationship with food. Instead of my typically relentless and aggressive approach, I tried a new strategy: I slowed down. I developed new habits around food and how I ate it: Splendid meals were plant-based and eaten mindfully so I could really appreciate them. This slow-mo approach helped me to be easy on my body, the planet, and my expectations. Splendid Spoon is designed to help you find peace amid the many distractions we are bombarded with in our modern lives. I will always be curious, easily distracted, and driven by big goals, but my daily practice with Splendid Spoon has transformed me into a much more intentional and peaceful person.
What are you favourite soups?
My favorite soup is hands down our Masala Khichri. It’s a hearty Ayurvedic stew of mung beans, spinach, ginger, and okra: it’s so comforting and satisfying.
What’s your recipe for self care?
I have a daily meditation practice, which I treasure. I’m also a believer in single-tasking. I work hard to focus on one thing at a time. This helps me in many ways: to be more thorough and thoughtful with work tasks; to feel a challenge more deeply so I can determine the best way to move on; best of all it gives me deeper appreciation for the moment I’m in, whatever it may be. If I’m playing with my kids in the park, I let myself simply be present to that play time. Self care for me is about quieting the monkey in my head, who tries to tempt me with to-do lists or ‘better things’ I could do with my time. Self care is about accepting where I am right now.
What’s your spirit animal and why?
Maybe a wolf. Wolves spend a lot of time on their own, and they cover great distances. But they’re also pack animals and will come back to their pack to hunt, play, and raise pups. I relate to this balance of independence and deep social connection.
What’s in your purse?
Apparently lots of lip products! I use a lip oil from Hourglass, a beet-juice tinted balm from Fat and the Moon, and a red gloss from Vapour. I have a little leather pouch I picked up in the Philippines many years ago that keeps a few fun essentials: a piece of Tiger’s Eye stone for courage, fluorite for focus, a tampon, a hair tie, and a sample of my favorite fragrance, Mississippi Medicine from DS & Durga. There’s also a mini face oil by this Swedish brand, My Havtorn—the more I hydrate my skin, the less I break out. I haven’t gone wireless with my headphones yet, so those make a reliable mess with my sunglasses (a cheap pair from In God We Trust, in Williamsburg). And lastly, a friendship bracelet that fell off my son, Grover, and some floss!
#WCW – who do you think we should talk to next and why?
I’m attracted to people who are self-made. Do you know Jody Levy who started WTRMLN Water? I met her recently, and she feels like a soul sister. She’s one of those people who has figured out how to be a creative for a living. She develops really interesting brands and then finds the best teams to run them so she can move onto another creative project. I’m very curious what she keeps in her bag!!