Start-Up Soup: Veggies, Love, Passion

Photo: Splendid Spoon

Through her line of plant-based, vegan and gluten-free soups, Splendid Spoon founder, Nicole Centeno, has made the healthy choice, the easy choice. But building the business wasn’t easy at all. In the early days, Nicole was working a day job in digital media strategy and selling soup on the weekends and as a lunchtime delivery subscription service. She was getting up at 4 am to cook before going into the office, then coming home to work on her business plan. She was also pregnant with her first child.

“It was an aggressive schedule,” she recalls. “It wasn’t healthy. It was a manic time.”

Her one moment of calm? Her mug of soup in the middle of the day.

“That one simple meal grounded me,” she says. “It warmed me, calmed me. It felt like comfort. I’d sit quietly, be present. Like a meditation.”

She knew exactly what she needed. Her start-up ethos: How can I make myself better? How can I make my footprint on the earth lighter? How can I do something simple with impact? Her answer: Eat more vegetables. Her veggie-based soups are now sold nation-wide through Fresh Direct and Splendid Spoon directly.

So Much Soup…

I had covered Splendid Spoon at SELF because I loved the mission of her start-up and how Nicole’s team rode their bikes together around the Brooklyn neighborhood surrounding their office when they needed a break.

I discovered her soup personally when I was starting up the Get Go. I had no time to eat. I’d look up from my work on any given day and it would be 4 pm. I’d have forgotten about lunch because I was so absorbed in what I was doing. Splendid Spoon became my savior. Unlike Nicole’s own experience, however, it was the opposite of a break, it was my fuel. I’d have a week’s worth of soups and smoothies delivered and roll into my day with a smoothie in hand. At lunchtime, I’d select a soup from my delivery that had just enough variety for it to feel like a choice, but not a decision.

I used to want my lunch to amuse me, cheer me up, surprise me. And Splendid Spoon’s soups can. But for me in start-up mode, my soup delivery gave me one of the most precious resources there is: time. It saved me countless hours when I didn’t want to do anything else but create. My soup diet was a no-brainer at a moment when I wanted all my brain cells focused on one thing, the Get Go.

My intention wasn’t to lose weight, but I did. I wasn’t hungry. I was nourished with nutrients. I ate whatever I wanted for dinner. Sometimes I’d go out in the evenings, but often, I’d work into the night and have another bowl of soup. There were plenty of menu options to choose from and I quickly honed in on my favorites. (For smoothies, I like the the new fruit flavors for spring/summer and the Ab + J, a riff on almond butter and jelly. Carrot Curry Lentil is my go-to soup, recipe below.)

Love + Efficiency = Start-Up Self-Care

When I was a kid, my Yaya used to make me soup and bring it to me at lunchtime at school so I would have hot soup straight off the stove. When my sister, Leda, and I would get sick, we’d get Yaya’s special noodle soup or congee. Soup has always felt like love to me. Nicole’s soups are made with love too. After all, they were created out of her own hunger for self-care.

In my present tense, soup felt like efficiency. Love and efficiency are strange bedfellows, but in this case, the efficiency of my meals allowed me to give all my attention to what I was loving the most. I wasn’t grinding out of pressure, I was working out of passion. It felt so good to be creative I didn’t want to take a break. Sometimes I’d sip my soup as I tapped away on my laptop and feel a flash of wonder and gratitude. I can’t believe I’m starting my own thing. I can’t believe that I have no time to even eat lunch– thank God for this soup! It might not have been the meditation that Nicole had in mind, but it’s another form of presence. It was all I had time for and exactly what I needed.

I’ve come out the other side of that feverish pace of the very, very beginning. But I still keep Splendid Spoon on standby. Where else can I get love, comfort and efficiency in one place?



  • Serves 4
  • 2 tbsp, coconut oi
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 4 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Madras curry powder
  • 1/2 lb dried black lentils, rinsed and drained (pick out small stones)
  • 2 qts water
  • 1 can (15 oz) coconut milk
  • 1 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • Peel of 1 orange, grated (optional)
  • In a medium pot over medium heat, warm the oil. Cook the onion, celery, and carrot, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, or until the mixture is tender. Stir in the garlic and curry and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in the lentils, water, coconut milk, and salt and cook for 25 minutes, or until the lentils are tender but still al dente. Enjoy warm or chilled. Garnish with the cilantro, red pepper flakes, and orange peel, if using.

Recipe courtesy of The Soup Cleanse Cookbook by Nicole Centeno. For more info or to order, go to