From Farmer's Markets to Fresh Cafés and Fancy Suppers
By Krista Gampper
Camille and her signature style, influenced by her global adventures.
Chef and food stylist Camille Becerra helmed the kitchen of Spring Street’s very first dinner, Bowery Banquet, in 2013. Camille and Patrick had met via Instagram and taken the friendship IRL when we transitioned from hosting backyard cabarets to producing full-scale theatrical dining experiences. That night, Camille helped turn our dining dreams into a reality, creating a chilled melon-tomato soup with smoked olive oil, pasta with greens, and poached peaches with chile and lime. The meal was consistent perfection and helped us set the precedent for future events.
In the years since, Camille has been executive chef at lauded SoHo seafood spot Navy, and has opened and developed the concepts for other notable restaurants in New York City including the artistic French spot Café Henrie and the chic NoLiTa spot, De Maria. Somehow, she also makes time to travel the world, participating in short-form dining experiences, like pop ups and other one-offs that echo her collaborations with Spring Street. And, to top it all off, she’s a leader in pushing gender equality in the restaurant industry, aka our type of woman.
Camille’s early food experiences allowed her to travel all over the U.S. and ranged from an apprenticeship with a macrobiotic chef cooking for cancer patients in Philly to serving meals for monks at a Zen monastery. Traveling across the country provided greater culinary perspective, invaluable insight into how to nourish people, and immersed her in the fabulous world of farmer's markets. She always knew she’d return to NYC and was determined to build her life there.
Scenes from our first Supper. And let's not forget that infamous nori toast, served at the all-vegan Crate & Barrel dinner in 2016.
When Camille first entered the NYC food scene it a) wasn’t cool to be a chef and b) the industry was even more toxically male than it is today. She landed her first gig at a well-known (and woman-owned) vegetarian spot, Angelica Kitchen. Looking back, it’s easier for her to see how this start allowed her to stay true to herself as a fierce woman, and also shaped who she is as a chef today, one who is very vegetable-forward.
For example, when we needed to do an all-vegan menu for Crate and Barrel in 2016 and were feeling overwhelmed by the challenge, Camille said “I got this,” and she did, creating a beautiful, filling, and robust menu. Did we mention it was six courses and guests couldn’t believe it was all vegan?
A focus on fresh, local produce is just the starting point for Camille; innovative and experimental execution is what sets her apart from the rest.
When Camille is developing a menu, she takes into consideration everyone who might find a seat at the modern table. This means making sure someone who is gluten-free can enjoy a meal with a vegetarian friend and a friend who is more of a meat and potatoes kind of person. In her own kitchen, though, she mostly cooks vegan; she’s conscious of the source of her food and likes to eat simply, but well. This ability to continually create anew, to welcome the challenge of collaboration, and to constantly work to build upon her strengths in food and style aren’t the only things that inspire us. We also admire her for being a strong-as-hell female force succeeding in a historically male-dominated industry.
We’d be happy to eat in any kitchen that Camille was cooking in and are excited to hear one of her next stops is a hacienda-style hotel in Tulum, Mexico. She’ll be developing the menu there using local produce and ancient grains and will, of course, be doing it all in her own style. After that adventure, she’s headed to Cuba to lead a cooking workshop for travelers that want a more hands-on, immersive vacation, again, with a focus on local produce.
Looks like that initial intuition for the importance of those early experiences traveling and in understanding our relationship to the source of our food continue to serve her well. To that, we raise our glasses, and now, we have to go book some flights to warmer climates.
Camille's creative platings are self-contained works of artistic performance that encourage interactivity and fearless tasting. Like, those blazing pine needles that topped off a bowl mussels.