Ellen Bennett used to harbor an idea that went something like this: “I can’t be a mom right now. I can only be an entrepreneur. I’ll become a mom when I’ve done everything I want to do with my business and sell everything off.”
Then the pandemic hit, and her perspectives on parenting and career success shifted. “I changed my mind one day in February, and I was pregnant two weeks later,” says Bennett, a former line cook at Providence restaurant and founder and CEO of Hedley & Bennett, a company she started 10 years ago with just $300 to transform the stiff, unflattering uniforms that kitchen staff wore into something more stylish.
“I just hated our uniforms,” she says. “I wanted to make something that made people look good and feel incredible. I’m proud that I’ve been able to cultivate a community of chefs and people who just believe in quality in general — like buying tomatoes from the farmer’s market instead of the grocery store. We’ve grown from selling aprons to hard goods and other products.”
Last April, she published a book,” which describes her approach to entrepreneurial success. “I wrote that book for everyone that kind of assumes that the way to start a business is to write a business plan and find investors and money. I wrote it for people who have a dream but don’t have a plan. It’s a lot of pep talk and an honest, really grueling story of how I built something out of nothing. It takes the cloak off the inventor and shows this is how you make it. There are not bumps in the road, the bumps are the road.”
Speaking of bumps, let’s get back to Baby. (To be fair, Bennett and her hubby were already “parents” to their IG-famous pig Oliver and five chickens).
Bennett had Nico in November, and we are excited to feature them as our cover models this month. Two days before she went into labor, Bennett threw an elaborate Mexican-inspired Friendsgiving to celebrate several things: her heritage, her wedding anniversary, Dia de los Muertos, her last Thanksgiving as a child-free woman and friendship.
In fact, her older friends, who are at various points along their own parenting journeys, helped Bennett embrace the idea of becoming a mother while still in the throes of running Hedley & Bennett.
“One of my friends said having a child makes you work so much harder for everything, you have a deeper purpose, and I thought that was so beautiful,” Bennett says. “I made a human being. That’s f– crazy, I can’t believe I did that.
“It’s the craziest journey I’ve ever been on,” she says. “Being a mom for the first week was harder than starting a business with $300. I was humbled that something could kick your ass that hard, but you love it. It’s like a video game. Every time you reach a new level, you’re feeling so good and like a conqueror, but then the next day the dragons show up and you’ve got to figure something else out. With having a baby, nothing is the same day to day. I have no control. When you’re so used to managing your own schedule, it’s hard. When he wants to eat, you’d better drop everything and make that happen. That weirdly has made me appreciate when I do have a little bit of time. All those self-care ideas about bubble baths and massages went out the window. Now, my self-care is, Did I get to have an hour nap? Did I eat breakfast? Hell, yes, I did. Am I eating enough, drinking water?
And nothing makes this new mama feel more cared for than eating the soup of her childhood: caldo de pollo, or Mexican chicken soup. “My abuelito, or grandma, used to make it,” she says. “We make it with a lot more vegetables that you don’t typically see in American soups. I love using chicken feet because it makes good stock. It makes the soup super, super rich and you can remove the feet, so no one has to know.” It’s just so good and very healthy and very comforting.”
Caldo de pollo
Half a chicken, bone in
A handful of chicken feet (There’s loads of collagen in there!)
1 whole head of garlic, cut in half
2 medium-sized onions, cut in quarters
A knob of ginger
4-6 carrots peeled and cut up
½ green cabbage
1 can of garbanzo beans (or freshly cooked garbanzo beans)
Lots of sea salt (to taste)
A giant handful of fresh cilantro
A few sprigs of epazote (a Mexican herb that adds depth to soup. If you can find it, perfect, if not then it’s OK to skip)
2 zucchini, sliced in ½-inch circles
½ teaspoon of chicken stock bouillon
Bring to a boil the chicken and the chicken feet with ginger, onion, garlic, salt and cilantro. Cook 15-20 minutes. Add all the veggies, season with salt to taste, add more cilantro and cook for another 30-45 minutes, stirring in the bouillon.
Skim the foam that forms at the top with a spoon. If you have some rice, you can mix it in at the end to soak up the broth.