Britt Meets Shelley Kleyn Armistead
Posted on April 23 2018
This week, Britt catches up with Shelley Kleyn Armistead - Partner at the Gjelina Group, which includes the much-loved LA restaurants Gjelina and GTA, Gjusta Bakery and Gjusta Goods, MTN, and The Gjelina Foundation (a non-profit dedicated to improving education and vocational outcomes in Venice, California public schools).
First and foremost, Shelley Kleyn Armistead is a MOM. A mom to two young boys. And a goooooood MOM. A mom that teaches her sons morals, values, compassion, and empathy… EMPATHY! So let’s just applause that. Because that alone is reason for her to qualify for my HUSTLE IN PURPOSE series.
PS Let’s just say their four restaurants are some of my favorite in Los Angeles… and I am not just saying that because I am writing about her as we speak.
She’s layered though. So in between her role as Mom and her role as Partner of a massively successful restaurant group, there’s a lot in between that make her one incredible human being.
I called the Gjelina offices one afternoon a few months ago explaining my project wanting to see if they had any females they could recommend for this project (I told you I was a fan of their restaurants.) Without hesitation, a man by the name of Nick referred Shelley. He told me hands down she was the most perfect person to have a smoothie with. Honestly, I just agreed and reached out immediately because it felt right.
When we met on a rainy Malibu morning at Soho House, she embraced me as I embrace most humans… with a hug. The idea of “stranger” doesn’t seem to be a part of her DNA. Immediately I felt like I was meeting a long lost soul mate friend. You just know these things and I can’t explain it any other way than that.
So I asked her, do you have a morning routine or do you make time for yourself to make sure you are OK? You seem like you have a lot on your plate.
“I do the same thing every day. Self-care is an extremely important part of my practice. It is just necessary. I used to only take about three minutes for myself but eventually you burn out. And in order to show up for my kids I need to make sure I am taken care of. I do this by making a smoothie every morning. I oil pull with sesame oil while standing on a vibrational plate. And I top it off with a game of Sudoku to get my brain working. Sudoku is like meditation for me. ”
OK… first of all, I NEED to know what is in your daily smoothie.
“Spinach, banana, coconut water, charcoal, aloe vera, maca, and extra greens.”
THAT IS AMAZING. GO YOU!!! GO SMOOTHIES!
Why oil pulling?
“Oil pulling is great because it is very hydrating and pulls out all of the toxins. I do it for about 10–15 minutes.”
I know you work in food and you are a licensed homeopath. With these two things being embedded into you, how does this affect your food choices and how you eat?
“I’m not obsessive about what I eat but I am aware. I EAT INTENTIONALLY. I will eat something if it is supposed to do something for my mind. I also eat for enjoyment. But regardless, there is always intention behind it. I love the ability for food to bring people together.”
OK let’s talk about that… why is food so special? Because like you just said, it brings people together in a really beautiful and connecting way.
“You know, many at-risk working relationships have been saved because of food. When you have to sit down and eat with someone, the dynamic in the relationship with the person you are eating with changes. The word “commune” comes from breaking bread. So that intention behind it has saved fractured working relationships. So the minute you say you are going to eat with someone, it makes things better.”
Ummmm YES. Or should I say, YASSSS.
What grounds you?
“Cooking and walking on the beach. If I am having a day where I am feeling uneasy, I try to get my feet in the sand and get myself in the kitchen and it automatically resets me.”
So let’s talk about something… I love Gjelina and Gjusta but they definitely have different vibes. Why is this or what makes them different?
“Gjelina is precieved to be more restrictive. Their philosophy is that they don’t modify (food). At times that is hard for me but I respect it and understand it. That is why Gjusta is my baby. I wanted to make Gjusta more approachable. I didn’t want to change the DNA of the Gjelina Group but rather make it for everyone and I tried to do that with Gjusta. You know everything I do I love. Every project I have done has me in it. There’s something about Gjusta that makes it so special for me…that it was almost my rebellion against exclusivity.”
SHE HAS PASSION AND LOVE!!!
“My long-term picture for Gjusta is that could exist anywhere in the world. The concept is feeding the masses but making it completely transparent. I’m aware walking into Gjusta at times feels like chaos and can be intimidating for people to figure it out. But you see the food. You see the staff. You see everything and I think there’s something very special in that. It’s a relationship.”
OK, so here is my favorite question I asked…
How is it possible to teach two kids that are growing up in Malibu humility…just because of so much access and opportunity at their fingertips?
“It’s simple. Empathy. It’s a taught emotion and it’s the last emotion learned. Empathy, eye contact, and the ability to love and receive love for other people other than their parents were my number one goal with my boys. And I do that by checking in. Checking in on their feelings. Checking in on them as humans. And this checking in process teaches them how to care for others. Their base principal is love their emotional intelligence is extremely high. They have both been identified as gifted in school and not because of anything academic but because of their emotional IQ and their ability to develop empathy.”
On top of all that is mentioned above, Shelley is actively involved in making her community better. One of the many ways she does this is through her work with the Gjelina Foundation. Although the program was already in place when she joined the Gjelina team, she has been a driving force behind its expansion. The primary goal of the organization is to provide access to cooking and gardening in the local community. Another goal is to increase local access to these schools. As she puts it, the dream and the vision is to, “Focus on the Venice school system and we do this through access to cooking and gardening. The second way we do that is to increase local access to these schools. Even though there is a lot of gentrification happening in Venice, a lot of the parents send their kids to private schools outside of the community. 75 percent of students that attend in Venice were being bused in and that doesn’t add to the sense of community we are trying to build in Venice.”
She also is actively involved in the Lower East Side Girls Club in New York.
Photography Holly Jo Hubell