In honor of International Women's Day, Carly Cushnie sat down with Athena Calderone, creator of the award-winning lifestyle blog EyeSwoon. The pair discussed the world of female entrepreneurship, as well as Athena's much anticipated cookbook, Cook Beautiful. The conversation unfolded at West~Bourne, SoHo's new neighborhood-focused, California-inspired eatery.

Athena Calderone's passion for people, togetherness, and culinary bliss inspired her to pursue a career in food, decor, and entertaining. She spent her early 20s experimenting with ingredients and tablescapes in the kitchen while friends were going out at night and working overtime. During those years, she refined her signature style and honed a passion for entrepreneurship, planting the seed for her award-winning blog. Thousands now visit this digital celebration of curated living for tips on entertaining, decor, fashion, and cooking. Beyond sharing her own expertise, Athena has utilized her platform to showcase the industry's most inspiring chefs, designers, and tastemakers.

West~Bourne's Founder is Camilla Marcus, another female entrepreneur we greatly admire. The sublime hues and tantalizing textures of her breakfast plates and grain bowls are an art in their own right, but even more inspiring is the mission behind Camilla's latest endeavor. The "People Always" mentality behind the restaurant manifests in donated proceeds to the Robin Hood Foundation, which works to end poverty locally.

It only seemed fitting to be surrounded be the inspiring company of two female entrepreneurs leading up to International Women's Day. During our chat in West~Bourne's warm interior, we talked about the challenges of female entrepreneurship, inspiring female muses, and more.

Carly Cushnie: What sparked your interest in food, home décor and entertaining?

Athena Calderone: My kitchen has always been my hub of happiness and creativity. I got married and had a child in my early twenties, so when the majority of my peers were focused on wild nights out or their careers, I was developing myself in my home.

I would pump up the music as I rolled out pastry and experimented with flavors, sharing the fruits of my labor with family. I toiled over the tablescape and filled my home with flowers as I presented seasonal delights I had whipped up over the stove.

Entertaining was at once my source of self-expression and my social outlet. It was in the home that I came to trust my creative instincts. My kitchen was my workshop and my haven. It was where my many interests collided - food, design, entertaining, and gathering with loved ones.

Cooking and the kitchen represents joy and togetherness to me, It was what eventually led me to my site, EyeSwoon, and now my cookbook, Cook Beautiful.

C: What inspired you to create a cookbook?

A: Cook Beautiful encompasses all of my various lifestyle pursuits - food, design, art, music, seasonality, and entertaining. I love to create beauty, whether that's though building flavor and layering textures as I manipulate high quality seasonal ingredients, sharing a beautifully presented plate of food, or designing a stunning tablescape.

I yearned for a place I could share my overlapping passions with a level of permanence - something that will live on forever as well as capture this very magical moment in time. I've learned so much over the years as I honed my skills, gaining insight and information from the incredible food community. From tips on elevating the presentation of our food to the importance about eating locally and seasonally, and I wanted to share all that I've experienced to spread inspiration.

A cookbook offered me to opportunity to share my love of cooking and my passion for capturing beauty - the artist expression I find both in the kitchen and in the creative direction through styling, composition and storytelling.

C: What has the process of creating your cookbook taught you about yourself?

A: To always trust my instincts. The cookbook journey was one that tested my ability to follow my gut. It challenged me a lot because of the magnitude of the project, and because I'd never embarked on this kind of process before.

At times I struggled to find my voice and listen to my inner guide, but each time I learned a little bit more about myself. I was reminded that I had arrived at this moment of creating my book because I'd trusted my voice, my vision.

Each time I went against the fiber of my being, it was as though I was slapped in the face with a reminder to come back to me. Sometimes we need to be reminded to just be ourselves again and again and again until we learn the lesson. This book was a wake up call.

In the end, I am so very proud of the book but the journey was not always an easy road and I vacillated with confidence, with engaging in the unknown, only to find me in the end.

C: Who are your female influences or ultimate muses?

A: Audrey Hepburn for her grace and humility and humanitarian efforts. Cleo Wade, Christy Turlington, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Jenne Lombardo, Jenna Lyons, Kerry Diamond - so many inspiring women around me who are trailblazers, leading the way by example.

C: What is the secret to finding balance as a mother?

A: Well, I'm not so sure balance exists. I think that you put what is important at the tippy-top of your priorities. For me, that's myself and my son, my family. All else is secondary. Prioritize as opposed to trying to balance it all.

C: As a female entrepreneur, what advice would you give to the women who are inspired by you?

A: You can be more than one thing. For far too long I defined "success" by society's standards: that you need to study one thing and be one thing and then, and only then, can you succeed. I never fit into the definition of singular career and I felt "less than" because of that. It was only when I truly embraced the multifaceted interests I embodied that I found my version of success and joy. So be you to find you.

There is a quote by Martha Graham that I just love: "There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and be lost."

C: Are there any style or design rules that you live by?

A: I love to play with opposition and contrast. Not too feminine, not too sexy, not too structured but a delicate balance of it all to create visual intrigue.

C: In what ways can we empower women?

A: By giving them a voice, a platform, to speak their truth. But by also sharing our own truth, our journeys, our successes and struggles with the youth of today. We just need to share more and more and more.

C: Do you have any daily rituals?

A: I wake 40 minutes before my husband and son to sit with myself. Before coffee, before email or instagram, and before engaging in mommy-ing, I sit with me. I like a candle and burn Palo Santo and just be.

Carly wears the Cushnie et Ochs Carlita Top and Emma Pant.

Athena wears the CUSHNIE Seina Jumpsuit and she carries the James Satchel.
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