THE CULT: Cynthia Groseclose


Surf, sun and superfoods set the course for a day in the life of Cynthia Groseclose. As a professional chef and food stylist, she's focused for years on creating beauty on the plate, but her personal pull was towards health and raising a healthy and happy family. And so she settled into life in South Carolina and dove deep into the study of plant-based nutrition. When mad kitchen skills meet art, beauty and a devotion to healthy living, we go a little weak in the knees. And so we do for Cynthia. 

Tell us about your path to towards a plant-based lifestyle.

My path to a plant-based lifestyle actually started at a young age. One of my favorite English teachers growing up had a PETA club at our school. I went to a few meetings and it just really impacted me. Because of this, I have drifted in and out of vegetaranism and pescataranism since childhood, throughout most of my adult life.

In September of 2017, I became ill with the shingles in my left eye that according to my doctors, was the result of a weakened immune system caused by stress. After spending almost a month in bed with crazy pain, I decided that I needed to get serious about managing my internal stress levels - something I admittedly haven’t been the best at doing. I decided to go to food and holistic practices to do this, cleaning out my pantry and getting rid of anything that wasn’t healthy or whole.

Because I wanted to learn more about the science of eating plant-based, I decided to get certified in Plant-Based Nutrition in January 2018 through Cornell University and while I have occasionally allowed myself to enjoy some seafood from our coast, I’ve found myself wanting to do that less and less because I’m actually craving plants.

Has food and well-being always been inextricably linked or was there an experience that led you towards a holistic way of thinking about food?

I‘ve always been pretty athletic (I’m a surfer, have run marathons) and I think just by the nature of this, I’ve realized there is a big link between food and well-being. But I do think my experience with the shingles has helped me understand this link on another level in that there is healing power with food.

In October of 2016, I decided to eliminate refined sugar from my diet. I didn’t realize what a huge difference this would make in my energy levels and the way I feel overall. I have noticed now how powerful sugars are and that I am personally extremely sensitive to any type of sugar - certain fruits, wine, maple syrup, honey. I decided to limit or eliminate those things now because I don’t physically feel good when I have them. Not always an easy thing, but I have found it helps. One thing I have learned over the years is that it helps to know and listen to your body with food and well-being. Our bodies are truly amazing and I think have the capacity to tell us what we need.

The recipes you share are so beautiful and look so delicious. Where do you source your inspiration?

I am an artist at heart and food is truly my canvas. I love pulling inspiration for flavors and ingredients from travels. I think a lot about the visual of what I am eating and serving to others. We eat first with our eyes, so I love creating recipes I know will be visually beautiful because that adds so much to the experience of enjoying those dishes. Health is one of the key inspirations with my cooking. I like to create food that is colorful and vibrant. And because of my own illness, I have been focused a lot recently on immune boosting and stress reducing ingredients and creating recipes that are healing and helpful for those things.

You spent years as a stylist. How would you describe that experience and how does it play into your life now?

I have loved my work as a stylist. It is the combination of food and beauty that I love. Working as a stylist has opened my eyes to see and appreciate food in a different light. Things like color, textures, movement - things I might not have otherwise appreciated if styling had not been a part of my career.

Tell us about your connection to Charleston, SC. How did you end up there and how does your location play into your life work?

I grew up inland in the southern mountains, but have always been drawn to the ocean - maybe it’s my water sign. I read Pat Conroy’s Prince of Tides when I was younger and knew I would live by the sea one day.

I came to Charleston for my undergraduate work, where I met my husband (who grew up in Charleston) my senior year. I went to Paris for culinary school and NYC to apprentice for a chef for a short period of time and have spent a decent amount of time in California, but I’ve always eventually found my way back to the Lowcountry. One of the things I love about Charleston is the vibrant food and arts community. There is a lot of culture here and the landscape is so beautiful. There are also some incredibly inspiring female entrepreneurs based out of Charleston, so I feel in very good company being here and feeding off of their energy and inspiration.

As a stylist and recipe developer, you’ve created a sustainable “self made” career - something so many of us aim to achieve. Can you share some of the benefits and a few of the challenges you’ve faced while trying to make a name for yourself?

I grew up in a family business, so I think some of my gravitating toward a freelance career is just because this is in my blood. It’s been important to me as a mother to have some semblance of balance with my career and family life. It can be really, really challenging. Being able to work for myself has been a blessing, but I’ve also learned that I have to hold myself accountable too. I try to stay very organized and have a weekly Sunday night review of my previous week, going over my goals and what is working and what isn’t, so I can make changes.

I have also realized my definition of what that success might look like can ebb and flow through life’s seasons and I’m learning to be ok with this. I try to focus on staying in my own lane and not comparing my season to anyone else’s - not always an easy thing in the age of social media. I have found it helpful to take detox breaks from social media when I am feeling anything but inspired by it. Having a “self-made” career can be isolating and a little lonely at times, so it’s helped me to be intentional about connecting with other female entrepreneurs - be it a weekly support call or a monthly tea date. I think it’s important not to isolate yourself and to stay connected with others.

Making time to connect with other entrepreneurs for inspiration and support has been really important to me this year as I move toward expanding my career through plant-based mentoring, teaching workshops, retreats and collaborating with others on plant-based wellness focused events. I am really excited to see how this new chapter will unfold and how I can hopefully have some sort of positive impact helping people.

You wear many hats between your work, passions and your family. How do you maintain balance? Any pro tips?

I love this question because my senior quote in high school was “I know there is a balance in life. I see it every time I swing by.” John Mellancamp. Finding balance is something I think so many of us struggle with.

I used to focus so much of my energy on trying to find the perfect balance with my work, passions and family, but what I have realized over the years is there is a very natural ebb and flow in life and I am a lot happier when I go with that flow and adjust my expectations based on the flow of each season. While not easy, it can be freeing and I think it allows you to be more present in the actual here and now of your life.

Right now I am very focused on expanding my work and helping people with plant-based wellness. It is my passion and I am working on my vision and purpose with it. I read something the other morning that said your passion needs a purpose and to find something to attach yourself too, so you can expand your capacity. I feel like this is my path right now and things feel in alignment and are starting to flow.

My son is becoming more self-sufficient, so this season feels right to me to direct a little more energy into my work and allow him to spread his wings a little as well. I’m not superwoman and know I can’t do it alone, so I know when I need to ask for help and I’m also grateful for a supportive spouse.

Do you have a favorite simple recipe or weeknight dinner idea to share? AKA your go to weeknight meal when time is scarce!

When I am tired from a long day and don’t have a ton of time to cook, I will often make quick things like a lentil salad with roasted vegetables or a soup. I love making soups because it can be simple yet you can be creative with flavors. While I might not agree with him, my son always jokes with me I should be on Top Chef when I do a quick pantry dinner. But I will say it sometimes amazes me the ideas that will come to you when there isn’t a lot to work with in your pantry. Two of my favorites are a lentil salad with roasted carrots and an herb vinaigrette and a spiced squash and pumpkin soup.

What are your top five CAP Beauty favorites?

I love everything CAP has, but if I had to choose, I would say these would always be in my pantry:

THE MATCHA I make it daily and sometimes multiple times a day. I also love cooking with it.

THE BLUE MAJIK COCONUT BUTTER The color alone… but I like the nutrient properties in the algae and will add to a smoothie or recently I made cookies with it.

THE O'CLOCKS COLLECTION I add these adaptogens to my matcha depending on the time of day. There is a morning, noon, and evening blend.

ODACITE'S OILS I use different ones depending on what my skin needs, but I love the Youthful Glow and Vital Glow oil right now.

MOON JUICE PEARL I also add some of this to my coffee or smoothie daily.  I really do think it makes a difference in the vibrancy of your skin.

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