Welcome to What Our Friends Are Cooking, where we call up our favorite people to find out what they’re cooking and how they're faring under quarantine.
You may know Camilla Marcus as the woman behind the Soho café, west~bourne. You might not know that she has another title as of just a couple weeks ago: co-founder of ROAR, a new nonprofit for restaurant worker relief that has galvanized the internet in recent weeks.
We caught up with Camilla to see how the hell she's doing, and, as a special treat, she has shared west~bourne's famous Malibu Waffle recipe, which is probably the best comfort food you could make right now.
Q: What has the last month been like for you as a restaurant owner?
Camilla: It's been unexpected and challenging. We made the difficult decision three weeks ago to close west~bourne for the safety of our teams, the community, and our business. Our industry is fundamentally geared towards making space and time for people to gather and enjoy each other’s company, which of course is not responsible now; this has been hard to come to terms with.
Q: How did ROAR come about?
Camilla: With all of New York’s independent restaurants in the same position as us, it was vital that we came together (digitally) to support one another and devise plans to get our industry back on its feet.
We founded ROAR (Relief Opportunities for All Restaurants) to establish a united industry voice and advocate for the recovery of New York restaurant owners and, most importantly, care for our teams during this unprecedented crisis. The response from the public has been amazing — from spreading our message and calling New York State Senators to raising $300,000 for our NYC Restaurant Workers Relief Fund. While it is a devastating time for our industry, for our country, and for the world, it has been so reassuring and energizing to experience the hospitality community unite to help one another.
Q: How are you staying sane under so much pressure?
Camilla: Like all of us, I am cooking at home more than ever and I’ve actually discovered my knack for bread baking. For me, spending time in the kitchen is somewhat of a ritual; it is time for me to be creative, experiment, and care for my loved ones the best way I know how. I am trying to use those quiet moments, whether it’s preparing dinner for my family or making a morning coffee for myself, to stay grounded. I can’t help others if I’m not centered myself.
Q: If you could impart one piece of wisdom to others who are feeling your struggle, what would it be?
Camilla: It’s important to take time for yourself throughout the day, be it taking a walk, meditating, or spending a few minutes on a puzzle. Finding those small moments to remove yourself from the news. If you are able, find ways to help your community right now. Calling your representatives to advocate for small businesses, picking up groceries for a neighbor in need, or donating to a relief fund are all small ways we can continue to support one another through this crisis.
Q: If you could time travel back to any past gathering, which would it be?
Camilla: We had a summer party with Justin Smillie and the Upland team. It was a night filled with California wines, incredibly craveable bites (pizza included), music, hugs, dancing, and lots of laughter. west~bourne was brimming with friends, family, neighborhood regulars, and new faces. A house party that’s our signature on Sullivan Street. And our team was doing what we do best: creating space for people we love to enjoy themselves. We cannot wait to get back into the restaurant for more gatherings like this.
Q: Your ideal first gathering when quarantine is over?
Camilla: A big dinner with family and friends at one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants. It was our 10th wedding anniversary and my 35th birthday in the past week, and I yearn to celebrate those milestones with the special people in our lives when we can again.
To support ROAR, you can make a donation here.
Camilla Marcus' Famous Waffles:
- 1 1/2 cup oat flour
- 1 cup buckwheat flour
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder1 tsp corn starch
- 1 1/2 tsp baking soda1 tbsp kosher salt
- 1 egg (ideally jumbo)
- 1 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 5 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
Combine all dry ingredients and sift making sure there are no lumps.
In a separate bowl, combine egg and buttermilk and whisk to mix. In a third bowl whip your heavy whipping cream to soft peaks. Gradually add the buttermilk mixture and melted butter into the dry ingredients using a rubber spatula. Next fold in the heavy whipping cream. Do not over-mix.
Pour a ladle of waffle batter evenly in a hot waffle iron. Set a timer for 3 minutes. Check to see the waffle is evenly cooking, flip over if needed. The same batter can also be used to make pancakes in a skillet. Top with creme fraiche, basil, chopped toasted walnuts, and / or fresh fruit as you wish.
P.S. it's naturally gluten free...as a bonus.