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. This Beyond Mom lives in Brooklyn, NY with her two sons, Grover and Caleb. Nicole is also the author of Soup Cleanse Cookbook. Splendid Spoon was a sponsor of this past Saturday’s Beyond Mom Urban Retreat! Nicole gives us her insight on practicing unconditional self-love and how becoming a mom made her question who she was and what she stood for.
What makes you a Beyond Mom?
I’m in contact with my world and strive to be present to each moment. This approach allows me to select experiences and relationships that enrich my understanding of myself and my place in the world. This gives me deep satisfaction in my work and my roles as mother, friend and lover.
What are the parts of you that have grown and expanded since becoming a Mom?
Oh boy, I feel like I was totally broken down by the experience of becoming a mom! It was such a humbling experience to bring children into the world: I really questioned who I was and what I stood for. I chose to let myself fall apart in many ways—my marriage ended and I stopped holding onto things that weren’t healthy for me.
My life simplified in so many ways. I could clearly see that my most important role was taking care of these little souls, and the only way I could be successful in this role was to honor my own soul. I reoriented myself to focus on unconditional love for myself, let go of lots of habitual behaviors, and released or modified certain relationships as a result. I have become much more present to the behaviors and relationships I invite into my life, and I’m much more joyful and peaceful as a result. It’s still an effort, of course, and it’s why self-care is so important.
Can you share a collaboration/success story with another woman; what helped the collaboration become successful?
For me, the best part about collaborating with women is their gift to empathize. Rather than just pushing ahead with a project because I want it to get done, I’m able to listen and evolve my concept based on the feedback of my collaborator. With women—and men who are skilled empaths—this process moves quickly and effectively because we’re communicating with the other person’s perspective in mind.
I collaborate every day with the women on my team and each of them brings a different skill set. Alex is expansive and able to bring in concepts from multiple perspectives very quickly to construct a higher level vision; Hannah is focused and task oriented: she’s able to execute multiple complex projects in a logical and thorough manner; Rene is in deep contact with her value system, which is incredibly rare and allows her to see patterns and identify problems quickly. I believe we need collaboration to learn more deeply about ourselves, uncover more of our strengths, and accept our weaknesses. Building things, solving problems, and overcoming challenges, are the beautiful side effects of this process.
What relationships help you stay connected to yourself?
My children remind me how special life is at every moment I’m with them. I’m humbled by them and that humility keeps me in deep contact with myself. The collective work of my team everyday at work is a similar experience because we must give voice to our unique ideas while also respecting each other. This requires discipline and open-mindedness. It’s challenging. I find a lot of satisfaction and connection to myself in this process.
Do you have a ‘Beyond’ dream that you are pursuing?
I strive to savor the little things in life while also building environments that change people’s lives for the better. This is why being an entrepreneur is so satisfying for me. I’m able to build my business through meaningful collaboration with my team and I also have command over my life so that I can sink deeply into moments with my children, the people I love, and with myself.
What wellness activity can you not live without? What is one thing you do daily that balances you?
Meditation. I notice how busy my mind is if I miss my morning meditation so I’ll then stop what I’m doing and sink into a 20 minute session as soon as possible.
How does style influence the way you stay feeling ‘Beyond’? Who is currently your favorite designer?
Clothing isn’t just about how I feel when I look in the mirror, it’s how I feel as it touches my body. The Great Eros makes gorgeous, body-positive lingerie and everyday wear that make me feel very “me”. The details of their pieces are so aligned with what I believe is sexy. That energy helps me encounter each day feeling fully embodied in myself.
Favorite Local Spots that Embody The Beyond Mom:
For me, nothing beats being surrounded by beautiful art. Storm King, The Temple of Dendur room at The Met, and the center of the Brooklyn Bridge are some of my favorite spaces. Also, simply being outdoors with my children is a truly spiritual experience for me. We love running around the property at Stone Barns or, closer to us, at the North Brooklyn Farm in Williamsburg.
Beyond Cocktails and/or Food:
I don’t drink that much but when I do it’s almost exclusively tequila. I like reposado on ice with lime. I’m also obsessed with tea, figs, Splendid Spoon’’s Chana Potato Stew, and the dark chocolate bark from The Assemblage’s Ayurvedic kitchen.
I’m addicted to the hot yoga classes at Modo Yoga. The rhythm of their classes is exactly how I experience yoga: expansive and heart opening and also deeply personal and strengthening. Also, I’m someone who is often a little cold, so the heat feels really good!
I love looking at and touching beautiful things just like lots of other people do. I often can’t often the things I covet, but I still like to treat my visual and tactile senses. I love Mociun for beautiful ceramics and jewelry, Quiet Storms for jewelry, and Shark Tooth textiles are some of my favorite well-curated spots where I live in Williamsburg.