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11 • 29 • 2021

Ocean Friendly Restaurant Spotlight: Camilla’s Sourdough in Venice, CA

By Olivia Buckwheat Kelly

It is rare to find a restaurant or café where the food leaves a great, lasting impression. It is even more rare to find an establishment whose ethos is as inspiring as the food. Uncommon though it may be, it does exist. Proof can be found at Camilla’s Sourdough, a delicious and charming roadside café in Venice Beach.  Founded one year ago by Camilla Gibson, an Atlanta native, Camilla’s serves up incredible sourdough loaves of bread – featuring the freshest possible milled-to-order flour—baked goods, and prepared menu items like the ever-popular Lincoln avocado toast (named after the café’s Lincoln Blvd locale.)

After finding her way to Los Angeles post-college, Camilla followed her lifelong dream of becoming a surfer. She fell in love with surfing and kept at it, but then, just as she was getting good, she got her leg sliced open by her own fin. It was a serious injury that kept her out of the water and at home for quite a while. This gave her time to further explore something she’d been dabbling in – making sourdough. Just as with surfing, Camilla began to get good at sourdough-making and was getting some seriously positive feedback from family and friends. That was all she needed to hear: She soon started selling just a handful of loaves a week at the Venice Love Shack, an eclectic furniture, art, and music store owned by her boyfriend.

What was just a tiny sourdough operation has now grown to a full-on outdoor café, which has remained on the Love Shack property but now has its own storefront. In addition to five different kinds of sourdough, the café also offers up croissants, cinnamon rolls, and delicious (my own word) sourdough muffins and cookies. There are also jarred foods on offer, along with about a dozen different variations of gourmet toasts, smoothies, and espresso drinks that feature cashew or sunflower milk. Everything is homemade and everything is vegan.

 “We use all organic ingredients, no animal products, we compost food scraps with a local community garden, Homegrown Gardens LA. [There’s] no food waste, no plastic, we buy in bulk, all drinks are in glass bottles… We don’t waste anything. How I want the world to be is the way I run my business,” Camilla explains emphatically. 

Camilla has always been passionate about sustainability, which she credits in part to her love of nature and her experiences camping and backpacking. Out in the wilderness, “you really see how pristine an environment is, and a small amount of trash can really impact that.”

Currently, Camilla sells to-go drinks in returnable glass jars that customers can take with them for a $1 deposit, which is refunded when they bring it back. “I think people don’t love using plastic, they just think there’s no other way,” observes Camilla. “They’ve become receptive to the returnables. People get it immediately and they’re on board for the most part,” she says.

But Camilla plans to take it a step further: Her next move is to eliminate paper as well, asking that customers bring reusable containers for bread and baked goods (reusable dishware is offered for customers who dine in.) Explains Camilla, “I wanted to go zero waste, but I needed some encouragement. Eugenia [Ermacora, sustainability activist and leader of the Los Angeles chapter of Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program] pushed me over the edge.”

Camilla believes that delicious food is and should be the biggest draw, but that the sustainable aspects of the café make it “that much sweeter.” Her mission is to heal people on all levels, physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, through her food. She is proud of the pure integrity of everything she serves. “It’s so nourishing. My intention is that it will make people pause, and increase the mindfulness of the present moment and bring a little bit of joy and love and dimension into their lives, hopefully healing them.” 

Is your local restaurant Ocean Friendly?  If not, encourage them to sign up and join the movement to end single-use plastics!