SHAMARA AND ALEXIS BONDAROFF ARE SISTERS, New York natives and successful entrepreneurs in the wellness world. Shamara’s cult micro-current facial at SB Skin boasts a mile-long wait list and glow-y results that have clients double taking in the mirror. (Myself included.) Alexis runs her own plant-based catering company Bond&Taylor where they produce innovative menus for health-conscious devotees in the fashion world and beyond. We caught up with the Bondaroff clan on a crisp fall day to chat all things health and wellness over an alkaline picnic complete with pumpkin chia cups, seeded bread and edamame dip with lotus root crisps courtesy of Alexis. Read below for Shamara and Alexis’s takes on growing up plant-based in the 80’s, the best tips for adrenal fatigue and the one thing you should stop doing to get that signature Bondaroff glow.
By Ariel Okin
Photography by Ryan Petrus
Shamara, I’ve heard you talk a bit about how you were raised vegan in Brooklyn in the 80’s, before it was a wellness trend, and I’m so interested in how it was ingrained in both of you at such a young age. Did you feel sort of like “odd ones out” growing up? How did it impact your childhood?
AB: Our father was really the strict vegan in the house growing up, and when he believes in something, he likes to share his knowledge with the world. We would have a lot of macrobiotic food at any given time, whenever you opened our childhood fridge. Things like “un-chicken” salad, curry tofu, rice dream, seitan, alfalfa sprouts, rice milk. etc. – very 80’s style vegetarian. Friends would come over open our fridge and crack jokes. On weekends we would sneak in junk food and take it to our bedrooms and my dad would hear us and ask from outside our closed doors, “What are you eating in there? Don’t eat that garbage” – it was a riot. So we never really felt like the odd people out, but our household was the odd house in a progressive, funny way. It wasn’t until I was 18-24 that I was conscious about eating vegetarian or vegan.
SB: [Laughs] Well, we were definitely not the norm for a few reasons. One being, my father made a decision to become vegan when we were young. He did all his research, way before you could Google it. I remember him telling us to call a phone number and it would be a fake slaughter house with a recording of what it sounds like if you were to be there witnessing what was going on. I just wanted pizza and soda like everyone else. If we were lucky, we could have Honey Nut Cheerios. I straight up used to rob food from my friend’s house. I definitely rebelled when I was out of the home. I needed to learn on my own terms. I’m grateful now for the foundation my parents provided, and it made it easy being vegan today. I never did feel like we were odd. My parents were too cool to be odd even with them being so progressive. My mom cooked almost every night, and enough to feed our friends. Even though it was all extremely healthy it was always good. I come across people who grew up around us, and they say how our parents impacted their lives, and made them aware that there were better options out there at a young age. It’s really nice to hear that.
Shamara, you have such a holistic approach to how you tackle your clients’ skincare. You often prescribe individualized suggestions for their skin, like tackling dryness and fine lines by seriously upping your water intake and adding in some healthy fats, rather than resorting to Botox or lasers. How have you figured out that balance, and what are some suggestions that everyone should follow across the board for healthy skin?SB: Everything I suggest is because I do it for myself. I would never tell anyone to do anything just because I read about it. Every product I use in treatment I used and still use on myself. Once I know what works for me, then I offer it up to all. How am I going to tell someone to make a dietary or skin routine change and not commit to it as well? I’m the guinea pig for you all. Good and bad! And don’t drink coffee. Sorry not sorry – it dehydrates you, blows out your adrenals and depletes your minerals. If you want plump, glowy, hydrated skin, do microcurrent [facials] and lay off coffee. If you’re sitting here saying, “Omg, I could never give up coffee”, then you need to dig deeper into why. It’s like a drug, and a very addictive one.
Alexis, your catering company has a ton of clients in the fashion industry who are looking for a healthy plant-based approach – how do you tailor your menu to each client, much how Shamara tailors her skincare treatments for each person?
AB: Catering is very much about hearing what the needs of the clients are. When a client inquires about an event, I listen closely to what they envision it to look like. Each event is unique, and I try to treat it as such by tailoring our services to ensure a more personalized experience. I truly believe you eat with your eyes; what our food looks like is as important as what it tastes like, so I’m always trying to make food that is healthy but vibrant.
Alexis, you founded Organica, the beloved organic juice bar and vegan restaurant in Park Slope, in 1997 – way ahead of its time before we had Juice Press dotting every corner. What inspired you to open a restaurant like that during the era of Snackwell cookies and Diet Coke?
AB: I started working in vegan restaurants when I was 17 or 18. I worked in this great one called Blanche’s Organic for a while. It was in Midtown (45th Street between 5th and Madison), right next to Conde Nast’s old headquarters. They were our biggest customer. I brought all my friends in to work there with me. It was really a fun place to work. The chef & baker were amazing. The food was great. Once in a blue moon I still run into the chef 20 something years later. It’s when I worked there that I became inspired to become a vegetarian chef, so during that era, I worked there and attended culinary school at the Natural Gourmet Institute, studying food and healing. Shortly after I graduated, I opened Organica in Park Slope. It was exciting. I was 22 and running a restaurant – a completely new experience with a ton learning curves. We had a great group of people working there…our weekend brunches were slammed. It was received well, the food was good, and people loved the idea that it was a bunch of young 20 year olds running this restaurant.
Shamara, I know you take your adorable pup for holistic therapies like microcurrent to help her arthritis. What types of healing therapies do you swear by for yourself that help you feel and perform at your best?
SB: I always incorporate holistic therapies for my pets. I want them to live a healthy whole life too. We were raised holistically and we rarely went to mainstream doctors. We wanted to find the root of the cause, not just have some doctor in a white coat writing a script. From when I was 14 until a couple of years ago, I used to see this kinesiologist. When I wasn’t feeling well, I went to him and he would suggest herbs and vitamins. He has passed away and I have yet to find that doctor to replace him,
When I can, I meditate I try to run 3-5 times a week – which is another form of meditation for me. My weekly Sunday night bath with tons of salts. I shut it down, light candles, put on music and can sit in there for an hour. A weekly infrared sauna to sweat out the toxins. I have one in my office 😉 Weekly session with my friend Amy Koslowsky who does John F Barnes Myofascial Release & Craniosacral Technique. I know Amy from sleep away camp when we were kids. She does amazing body work. I love spending time with her and she reads my energy so well. I feel brand new after a session with her. Monthly, I go to Rafael Torres for posturology and auriculotherapy. Seeing both Amy & Rafael keep my posture balanced. I work on my feet every day and looking over clients causes me major back and hip issues. Between the two of them I’m able to show up and be at my best. I also throw in some chiropractic and acupuncture work here and there.
What are the top five things that you both always have in your fridge?
SB: I’m gonna let’s Alexis answer that. Because all I have is dog & cat food, apple cider vinegar, apples, almond milk, spinach and live sauerkraut. Literally that’s it, besides a few condiments. Alexis makes fun of me that I live like a bachelor. Whatever – it is what it is. My sister is a chef, I go to her fridge.
AB: I just opened my fridge door and where do I begin: at the moment in my fridge, I have E3 Live, Medjool dates, guava rose jam, ginger jam and orange marmalade, unsweetened almond milk, organic milk & kefir from our weekend local farm stand, pickled items that Lee makes (the Taylor of the Bond. He loves baking , pickling and making kombucha.) Right now we have red sauerkraut, pickled garlic scapes, kimchee, kombucha & fire cider. Oh, and brandy poached plums! We have a few varieties of the Consider Bardewell Farm Cheeses. I love their cheese! Also farro salad, beluga lentils with swiss chard, baked sweet potatoes, delicata squash, shiitake mushrooms, kale, spinach, arugula, cauliflower, organic eggs, pineapple, avocados, fresh turmeric, ginger, local apples, and pears. I should stop here because I can go into condiments, but the list can go on and on.
Your go-to healthy snack?
SB: I’m a creature of habit and basically eat the same thing everyday. I would rather snack then eat a meal. Almonds, apples, avocados, seaweed snacks and a protein bar are my go to’s.
AB: Brown rice avocado rolls with toasted sesame oil and umeboshi vinegar, almonds, apples, nut & seed bread that Lee (my partner in life and my soon to be daddy to our baby) bakes for Bond & Taylor and us all the time with Spectrum and nutritional yeast; I love kefir and I can’t resist a nice piece of cheese (more so while pregnant!)
Does your holistic approach extend to cosmetics? What do you think about the clean beauty movement storming the industry at the moment? Is it a trend with legs, and should we be concerned about swapping out out cosmetics for entirely clean beauty?
SB: I’m all for it and it’s about time! Our skin is our largest organ and we absorb product within seconds. Now think when you’re in a hot shower and your pores are open – why would you want to lather on some product that is full of chemicals? Our body already has to work to deal with environmental pollution, why would you want to stress your organs out more? I love seeing all these small companies mixing up beautiful natural products. You are now seeing big companies paying attention and trying to shift to be more appealing. Skin care products should have a shelf life – if it does, you should think about what they are putting in it to make it last. I don’t expect you to go into your bathroom and throw everything out, but you should replace something that is finished with a new clean product. From make up, shampoo, soaps, deodorant and anything you are going to put on your face – keep it simple, keep it clean, and don’t use products that test on animals.
AB: Absolutely, in terms of cosmetics. I believe less is more, as far as the ingredients are involved.
I remember you told me once you never get sick – do you think it’s partly credited to your vegan diet? What do you do when you feel like you’re coming down with something?
I know I make jokes that I don’t get sick because I’m vegan, but it’s true. I can’t afford to get sick, I’m committed to clients. They are all coming in and expecting their treatment. What am I supposed to do, call them and say sorry I can’t come in I have a cold? You try telling a bride that! When I’m feeling rundown, that is the first sign to pay attention to. If I don’t, my immune system will be shot and I will get sick. So I drink tons of water, stay away from sugar and caffeine – both contribute to adrenals being blown out – take a bath, go to bed super early and do shots of fire cider throughout the day – it’s a cure all!
Do you take any specific supplements you swear by?
SB: E3 Live and probiotics. My parents have been taking E3 since the 80s. I probably have been taking it for over 20 yrs. It’s super blue green algae. I also take a B-Complex, adrenal support, a multi vitamin, and a supplement for hair and nails.
Alexis, you have a little one on the way – congratulations! Is there anything you’ve been doing either with nutrition or self-care that has been helping you throughout the pregnancy process? Are you planning on raising your little one as a vegan from the start?
AB: Thank you! This is very exciting. I am in the last phase of my pregnancy at 35 weeks! It really flew by. Besides weekly acupuncture and one prenatal massage, that’s about it. I wish I would’ve done more, but I have been so busy with Bond & Taylor and then moving to a new place, that I didn’t have that much free time. Thanks to an end of summer trip for Shamara’s birthday in Italy, I was finally able to stop, relax and get in touch with my pregnancy. We are not planning on raising our little guy vegan because we aren’t vegan. I believe in eating high quality ingredients and everything in moderation, and if you listen to your body, you will be attuned to what it needs. I do believe the first handful of years of a baby’s life it is better for them with having very little to no dairy. Breast milk all the way!
What do you both think of plant based diets and veganism appearing now as a “trend” at restaurants like abcV, versus as a lifestyle that people really understand and ascribe to?
SB: Alexis might have a different opinion then I on this one. I personally like it. I love that I can go anywhere and find something to eat. I love that there are so many restaurants that don’t feel like an ashram that my friends can come to with me. I do still appreciate the classics and was heartbroken Angelica’s closed. There is for sure a trend versus lifestyle when it comes to this, but if more people jump on the trend and start feeling better, maybe they will subscribe to the lifestyle. Less animals consumed makes this world a better place (literally) and it has to start somewhere even if it’s a “trend”.
AB: I also think it is a good thing that there are more places – therefore more choices – to make eating cleaner and more accessible, but it saddens me that all the healthy longtime favorites that were pioneers are closing down, such as Angelica Kitchen and Souen on 13th Street. It seems like you have to be be big corporation, franchise or backed by a lot of money to survive as a business. Support the small restaurants & health food stores. Those places have character. They are the best!
Best wellness advice you’ve ever been given?
SB: Go to bed before the new day starts – I remember Alexis telling my dad this when we were in high school. It always stuck in my head. My mom ALWAYS goes to bed so early. It finally made sense to me. Your body does all its healing and repair while you are asleep. We were built to wake up with the sun and go to bed with the moon. I feel so much more refreshed and clear when I have a good sleeping habit. Then I start the day making right choices. Chain reaction. Simple wellness. It doesn’t have to be anything so elaborate.
AB: Go to bed before the new day starts [laughs] – and everything in moderation!