617.501.4008 cara@carasoulia.com
Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz | The Farmhouse & Buttercup

Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz | The Farmhouse & Buttercup

Meet Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz, the Co-Proprietress of buttercup and The Farmhouse, two farm-to-table restaurants in the western suburbs of Boston.

Photos by Cara Soulia, Boston Photographer | @carasoulia

Interview and copy by Kristen Collins | @findingforty

Boston Photographer Cara Soulia creates a portrait of Buttercup proprietress Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz

I’ve known of Dora for several years. She has a low-key and really positive reputation in the Needham (where I live with my family) as a business owner who isn’t just in town to run her restaurant, The Farmhouse, but also to participate and give back to the community.

Like every entrepreneur in my A Mother’s Work series, Dora is much more than just a restaurant owner. She’s a partner, spouse, mother, daughter, sister, friend.

She’s also a Dream Chaser. 

We got together to talk about her life, family and restaurants before COVID-19 turned the world upside down. I’ve held on to this post for over two months, wondering how I could edit it to reflect the realities of today. Rather than change the content, I’ve decided to edit out the timely details that are no longer relevant, but share the post as it was written in March. 

Dora’s story represents that of every local restaurant owner around the world. She spent her entire adult life working to turn her dreams into a reality while raising two children and giving back to her community. 

Today, amidst this crisis, she is working tens times harder to stay afloat. Read on for Dora’s story, and please consider supporting her — and all local entrepreneurs — in the weeks and months ahead. 

The Farmhouse is open for PICK UP and DELIVERY from Tuesday – Saturday. They’re serving family style meals, including their fantastic tacos, as well as beer and wine.

buttercup will be opening it’s PATIO for dine in on Tuesday June 9 for dine in service. Tuesday – Saturday 4:30 – 9:00 pm.

buttercup is also offering PICK UP and DELIVERY from Tuesday – Saturday. They’re offering a wide menu of locally-grown items from Dora’s Sunwashed Farm in Framingham. Also, check out their plans to host an Argentinean Dinner at the farm in August.

A Mother’s Work:  Dora Tavel-Sanchez Luz| Co-Proprietress of The Farmhouse and Buttercup | Photos by Boston Photographer | @carasoulia

Buttercup Website | Buttercup Instagram

Farmhouse Website | Farmhouse Instagram

I’ll never forget the time a few years ago when I first saw Dora. I was having lunch with a friend and noticed a woman bouncing from the kitchen, to the bar, then to the customers at The Farmhouse. Later that day I spotted her wearing mesh shorts and running along on the sidewalk in Needham’s active downtown. Turns out that after the lunch rush, she was logging some miles as she trained for the Boston Marathon. 
 
Having the chance to chat with her for A Mother’s Work was fantastic. Not surprisingly, her story has a lot more depth than I would have expected. But, isn’t that always the case with entrepreneurial women?
 
 
Tell me the story of how your business was born.
 
(She takes a deep breath, then releases).
 
It has been a lot of work, but it’s truly a culmination of a dream that Gabriel and I have had since we met in New York in our early 20s. We were both working at Beppe, one of Cesare Casella’s restaurants, and – like most young adults – trying to find a way to live on our own, pay the bills and keep our heads above water.
 
I was a server and he was a back server. We loved the atmosphere and we thrived on the adrenalin that percolates in a restaurant: the energy that comes along with creating something outstanding from basic ingredients, welcoming and interacting with guests, making it all happen in the back. Restaurants – when managed well – create family. 
 
We fell in love and created dreams together. Opening our own restaurant was on the top of the list.
 
 
Was this always the plan, to be a chef and a restauranteur? Was this your childhood dream?
 
No, like many children and teens, I had lots of dreams. The real question was where would dreams take me.
 
I grew up in Wellesley and had the theater bug. I went to Emerson for college and headed to Los Angeles afterwards to pursue my TV and film career. My interests led me to theater vs. TV/film, so I found my way to Shakespeare and Co. and then New York, where I landed at a small theater company.
 
I was working in restaurants. And my goal was really just to pay the bills. But it turned out that I loved it.
 

I’m going to assume it wasn’t that straightforward…?

Of course not (she laughs).

Gabriel and I married in 2003. We started saving money to open a restaurant in New York. Sophie arrived in 2004 and we found ourselves heading back to Gabriel’s home in Cholula, Mexico. Our “first restaurant” was actually a small business where we cooked lunches for local government businesses. We juggled it with a toddler and another one on the way. 

GianMarco was born in 2007. By then I was back in the Boston area. We worked in a lot of outstanding restaurants in Lincoln, Cambridge, Concord and Boston. I got to know a lot of the local farmers, which inspired me to start my own farm. We pulled it off by purchasing a home built in the 1800s in Framingham. We have a ton of land, so I went crazy growing my own vegetables, most of which end up on tables at our restaurants.

The Farmhouse opened in 2013, and buttercup followed five years later?

Exactly. We had a vision, long before it was trendy, to create a restaurant that was all about living off the land. I used to visit my family farm in Cornville, Maine as a kid, so I’d seen firsthand that farm-to-table was possible. 

Thanks to the strong Needham community, The Farmhouse built a steady clientele early. Gabriel and I worked 24/7 for a few years, but thanks to fantastic staff, we started to find balance between work, home, parenting and everything else.

We decided to divide and expand, opening buttercup in Natick Center almost two years ago. Today, I run buttercup while Gabriel focuses on The Farmhouse. 

What is your greatest motivation with the restaurants?

Many things. I love working. I love being at buttercup and I love the adrenalin that comes with a successful night, a great crowd, happy customers.

I’d say the staff is a huge motivator for me. Since I have been in restaurants all my adult life, I’ve seen businesses that really value their staff and I’ve seen places where they could care less. Restaurant life is hard work. Physical work. Our goal has always been to run businesses where we treat our employees with integrity. Like family. 

 
 

 

What is the most challenging thing about running your own business and raising a family at the same time? 

When the kids were younger, the hardest part was running in so many directions. We were lucky to have a lot of help from my mother and brother, but we were working at top speed. We’d work opposite shifts to make sure one of us was home as much as possible. We worked really hard to be present in the moments of love with my children.
 
I have this great memory of a day when GianMarco was five years old. I had a Vespa. I figured out that I could get 16 heads of lettuce and GianMarco on the bike and get to the restaurant. I remember his little hands. Now I can’t hug him in public because, well, he is 12.
 
With Sophie, I have a beautiful memory of a day with Sophie. She was so small. I was pregnant with GianMarco. We were sitting together and she was eating a peach. I could smell her and sense her peacefulness and smell the peach, too. I’m not sure why that memory is so engrained in my brain, but it’s there. My connections with my children are very strong, even if our lives are busy.
 
 
 
Your kids are teenagers. What’s it like now? Do they come to the restaurants?
 

Things are different now. The restaurants can run themselves if we need to be home, though we both love to be at work. It fuels us and that’s important to us as people.

Our kids are older and really independent, too. Sophie has been running her day-to-day for a long time. Even several years back she was getting herself off to school on her own: making her lunch, getting dressed, getting on bus. I give my kids lots of credit. They make it happen. 

Sometimes the kids help at the restaurant in the evenings. They do everything! Dishes, food preparation, food running, back serving. You name it. GianMarco can cook! 

Otherwise, they’re typical teenagers. Sophie is interested in psychology, art and film. GianMarco is into sports and student council. I feel lucky. We’ve worked really hard to get to this point. In many ways, it’s been for them, but it’s for us, too, and the people we meet along the way.

Website |Instagram

Read more features from the A Mother’s Work series and see more images by Boston Photographer Cara Soulia here.


Cara Soulia is a Boston Photographer who specializes in creating beautiful, natural images of families in a unique and artistic way.  See more of Cara’s work here or get in touch to find out more about scheduling a photo session with a Boston Photographer for your family. 

A Mother’s Work:  Antoinette Hemphill,  Mamabeasts

A Mother’s Work: Antoinette Hemphill, Mamabeasts

Some girls come into this world knowing exactly what they were meant to do with their lives.  From the moment my daughter could speak, she has been telling me she is going to be a teacher some day.  She is so sure of herself that I believe this will probably happen.  But for many of us, the path ahead is only made clear with time.  School years are spent in a variety of classes and subjects, then our jobs in the “real world” lead us here and there, all the while wondering what we want to be when we finally “grow up.”  Somewhere in the midst of all this, many of us start a family.  Adding babies to the mix is amazing, but also complicating. As we survey our increasingly full and multi-faceted lives, we are often overwhelmed by the sense that we can’t possibly “do it all,” and that we, like so many women before us, must choose between the twin priorities of work and family.

A Mother’s Work:  An Introduction

“A Mother’s Work” is a blog series challenging the traditional concept that women can’t prioritize both their careers and their children. Featuring female entrepreneurs who are also mothers, “A Mother’s Work” showcases women who are passionate about running their business while also raising a family, each with interesting and inspirational stories to tell about their continuing journeys through career and motherhood, and their own challenges and victories in the age-old quest to balance work and family.

Born of my own winding journey through years in the finance industry, starting a photography business on the side, and finally making the leap to follow my heart and launch a full-time career as a professional family photographer, all with children in tow,  “A Mother’s Work” is inspired by the countless women I have met along the way who are managing the same balancing act as me, and my effort to share stories of entrepreneurship, of motherhood, and of hard work, each of them unique in their details yet uplifting and energizing in the familiar passion for work and family.

A Mother’s Work is baby raising, but it is also risk taking, dream chasing, business owning and choice making.  And yes, it’s cliche to say it, but a Mother’s Work is never done.

I hope my readers will find inspiration in these stories of courage and determination and hard work.  For me, it was so scary making the leap to entrepreneurship because I had two kids ( and one of the way! ) and I wasn’t sure how I would manage it all. My hope is that “A Mother’s Work” encourages others to persevere in finding what they were put on the earth to do, and reminds them that, though it might look like a hot mess at times, we really can “do it all”.


A Mother’s Work:  Antoinette Hemphill | Owner, Mamabeasts

WebsiteInstagram

Meet Antoinette Hemphill.  She is the founder of Mamabeasts — exercise classes and a fitness community for mothers. She has been inspiring Boston area Moms to ‘get it done with their little ones’ since 2011.  Antoinette is also a mother to three boys and is an inspiration to so many.  She suffered severe post part depression and anxiety after the birth of her third son and she credits exercise for contributing to her recovery and the success of Mamabeasts!Mamabeasts -Feature-Boston-Photogreapher-Cara-Soulia-Photography_0024.jpgPersonally, I have been taking classes at Mamabeasts for a little over a year now and I can tell you first hand that it is ah-ma-zing.  I don’t need to pay for childcare while I exercise, the workouts are challenging, and the community is welcoming and kind (and it doesn’t hurt that the tank tops are super cute!)  But by far, one of the best things about Mamabeasts, is that the kids get to see their moms exercising, being awesome role models — demonstrating how important it is to take care of themselves!

The person who first introduced me to Mamabeasts told me that it ‘saved her life’ after the birth of her first son and I believe it!  I remember exactly how lonely and isolating it can be when you have your first baby and I only wish I had had Mamabeasts when my first son was born.  It is not enough to be motivated to work out, you need a tribe of people to cheer you on when you aren’t feeling motivated to work out.  And Antoinette has created just that.  Read on to find out more about Antoinette’s journey and find out how you can try out Mamabeasts for free!!

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  1. Tell me the inspiration behind Mama Beasts

Mama Beasts really came from wanting to create a community and workout during a season of life that I personally found incredibly confusing and difficult – motherhood. As a new mom, I had an experience with exercise where it truly saved me on an emotional level. It made me see a stronger and more capable version of myself at a time in life when I needed it. There are plenty of Mommy and Me classes out there, but I created Mama Beasts for the moms. You can take your babies and young children – and they benefit immensely. But I wanted moms to have an empowering and challenging workout that was something they looked forward to and gave them a spark for the rest of the day. It is an hour they give to themselves – but in a way that they can actually do it. I also wanted to create an environment that was equally challenging and supportive. The classes itself, the community, the eventual challenges and play-dates – I wanted it to be a celebration of motherhood, of women, and friendship – and an antidote to the struggles that often come along with this season. After I had my third son, I got to test out my creation first hand as I experienced a pretty severe postpartum depression and anxiety. Mama Beasts – both the workouts and sense of community – were a huge part of my recovery.

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  1.  What is your favorite part about being your own boss?

I think it’s the ability to be creative and the opportunity to constantly (more…)

Sweet Saachi & Family, Needham Family Photo Session

Sweet Saachi & Family, Needham Family Photo Session

Larz Anderson Park Fall Family Session Cara Soulia Photography

There’s something so beautiful about fall in New England, even when it’s rainy and dreary. It was such a delight to meet up with sweet little Saachi and her family at Larz Anderson Park in Brookline, Massachusetts for a family photo session filled with fall foliage, despite a rainy start.

Needham Fall Family Photography

It was drizzly the morning of our session, and I wasn’t sure if the family would want to go ahead with the photos. But, I knew there was some beautiful foliage at the location we chose. It was not your typical beautiful fall day in Brookline. I talked to mom on the phone and we decided to go for it! This family had just moved to Needham, MA from San Francisco so they were used to this kind of weather. They wanted to capture the magnificent New England foliage after moving here from the West Coast. I’m so happy they decided to brave the weather.

Larz Anderson Park Fall Family Session Cara Soulia Photography

When we met up, the rain was definitely on and off. Thankfully, it wasn’t anything too crazy, so we were able to have a successful session. Mom’s father came along and he was so sweet with baby Saachi. You can tell she has really stolen his heart.

Larz Anderson Park Fall Family Session Cara Soulia Photography Larz Anderson Park Fall Family Session Cara Soulia Photography

And who can blame him? Look at those eyes! Her beautiful, unique eyes were piercing. A sharp contrast to her darker hair. Mom and Dad also had darker hair and eyes, so I had to ask about them. Mom said that her sister has stunning, light eyes just like Saachi’s. They are just so mesmerizing and I loved how the bright colors of the leaves and the bright colors of her eyes came together.

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Family of SIX! | Needham Family Photo Session

Family of SIX! | Needham Family Photo Session

Arnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia Photography

Last October, I met up with this family at the Arnold Arboretum in Roslindale, Massachusetts on an unseasonably warm afternoon!

Needham Family Photographer

This wonderful family of six lives in my town, and although I had never met them in person before our session, we have a number of mutual friends. After spending time with this family, I was struck by how comfortable I felt with them, and how down to earth they are — I can see why we have friends in common!  Their oldest daughter, Claire, was about to get braces before the session, and Mom wanted to have some photos taken before that big event!  And, of course, she wanted to capture the rest of the family, too, at this time in their lives.

I was so, so impressed with how well-behaved and easy-going the kids were. I know how hard it can be to keep children in line (with three of my own), so to watch everyone being so sweet, was awesome.  These parents are certainly doing something right!

Arnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia PhotographyArnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia PhotographyArnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia Photography Arnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia PhotographyArnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia Photography

An Arnold Arboretum Autumn Family Portrait Session

The children started out a bit shy, but by the end of the session, they warmed up and were running around and playing.  I’ve found that with young kids, it’s best to keep moving and treating the session like a playdate with a friend rather than a chore. I love the candid moments that come from playing—as opposed to me telling them to hold various poses for a long time — like this spontaneous sort of “follow the leader” image — I didn’t line them up, but they managed to get into a size/age lineup, with little Charlie leading the pack!

Arnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia Photography

Arnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia Photography Arnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia Photography Arnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia Photography Arnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia PhotographyArnold Arboretum Family of Six Cara Soulia Photography (more…)

Fun with friends at the Arboretum

Fun with friends at the Arboretum

Last summer, I met up with this awesome crew at the Arnold Arboretum in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts for a family photo session in one of my favorite local spots.

This photo session was particularly special to me because these beautiful people are good friends of our family! Mom has always said she’s a fan of my work, so her husband surprised her with a gift certificate on her birthday for a photo session. What a great birthday present!  Good job Dad!  Although, it’s not really surprising he would give such a thoughtful gift.  Mom & Dad are both sweet, caring and considerate — they’re the kind of people you are always so happy to see.

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