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“That innate feeling of giving people something that comes from a space of nurturing, and displaying passion and love through food.” Camille Becerra of De Maria captured in one sentence the essence of why I love to cook. It is no surprise that this caretaking spirit is also what she feels sets her food apart.

Camille and I have known one another for a good three years now and I have wanted to collaborate with her in some capacity throughout this time. We were initially connected though the supportive female food scene here in N.Y.C. This crew consists of artistic ladies who explore a varied swath of creative disciplines. United by our love of food, we get together and make it, style it, and capture it through a lens – but most of all, we learn from one another.

On a hot, sunny summer day, Camille and I finally had the opportunity to cook together in her much swooned-over, beautifully designed restaurant. De Maria has captured the hearts and bellies of so many with its thoughtful, artful, and health-forward food – it has become a downtown darling within mere months of opening its doors.

Camille was working the line for lunch the day we made this charred beet and raspberry salad, so we had just an hour together, but boy, did we make every moment count. Camille is a true artist. She sees it all, feels it all, experiences it all, senses it all. She doesn’t falter amongst the 10,000 things she needs to do. It is almost as though you can see her mind computing everything as she moves. Dashing from the kitchen, she would glimpse over as we were shooting. With one swift look, she would immediately know what was needed, popping in to finesse the dish and add a vibrant-colored juice to amp up the visual intrigue. Then she’d bop right back into the kitchen without skipping a beat – or beet, I should say!

Meanwhile she’d flash a gorgeous smile, aware of the shot and angle, or offer words of wisdom about the dish; she chars the beets after they are cooked, (to add more flavor, of course), roughly chops them to create geometry and a sense of ease, smushes the raspberry over the beets to add to the rustic quality of the dish and play with the tone-on-tone hues, and includes pistachios for some welcome crunch against the creaminess.

The takeaways were plentiful during our short time together – do what you love, make a visual statement by playing with color, texture, and negative space, season as you go to build flavor, let ingredients speak for themselves, and don’t be too fussy. These are the foundations of a beautiful dish, beautiful design, and most certainly a beautiful experience at De Maria.

De Maria

Chef Camille Becerra

  • Q&A

    • How would you describe the food you create at De Maria? What is the core value represented in the food? 
      Inspirational food that spurs people  have a takeaway, where people feel the desire to also develop their own versions of the recipes at home. I value food that tastes great, is healthful, nurturing, and visually stimulating.

      What inspired you to you become a chef and what was the genesis to where you are today?
      I was inspired to cook by the feeling one gets after a delicious meal, and also the feeling of gathering people together. I enjoy the aspect of craft and using my platform to create. Outside of dedication to my craft, living in New York and being inspired by all the cultures here manifests in different versions in my food.

      Your favorite dish at De Maria? Most popular thus far? 
      My favorite dish is the chicories and seaweed because I wanted to do something different than a kale salad, and it makes every cell of your body feel happy. The most popular is Dragon Bowl because it has a little bit of everything one needs for the day.

      Biggest turning points in your career? 
      Biggest turning point was going from a line cook to leading a kitchen and becoming a chef.

      Any kitchen trick for home chefs that’s guaranteed to pack flavor into their dishes? 
      Important to season as you go and build flavor so the food can start absorbing all the spices in layers.

      Your food is beautiful, thoughtfully composed, artful and rustic at once. Can you speak a bit about plating? 
      My philosophy is to let ingredients speak for themselves and not be too fussy.

      Can you share any visual presentation tricks for the home cook?
      The use of color play is the the foundation of a beautiful dish, and not overcrowding the plate.

      Tell me about the dish we created today. How did you pull more flavor out of the beets?
      I add salt and little bit of vinegar to the cooking liquid for the beets. Once they’re cooked down I slice and char them to give another dimension of flavor.  

      Can you speak about the tonal choices in this dish as well as the flavors and the importance of texture? 
      The tonal choices in this dish are a play on different reds. For flavors, the sweetness and earthiness of beets mixed with the super tartness of raspberries creates a balance that is the core of the dish. Pistachios contrast the softness and lushness of the beets and raspberries.

      You are a chef but also an artist, stylist, and photographer. How do you feel your heightened visual awareness affects your food? 
      On a visual note, it’s always the first thing you notice about the dish so I want to give guests that start. Color and different textures play a role, as do the use of empty plate (or lack thereof), and the incorporation of ingredients that aren’t normally combined. I think that makes it interesting. I’m always trying to add an element of surprise on the plate. These all contribute to how the dish appears.

      What would you say sets your food apart?
      As a woman, that innate feeling of giving people something that comes from a space of nurturing, and displaying passion and love through food.

      Can you speak a bit about the ceramics used at De Maria?
      In a kitchen you tend to go through plates very fast due to high volume. In that regard, we love to feature lots of different ceramicists at one moment. Right now we have items from Beau Rush — she has a studio nearby and she understands our aesthetic and gives us simple handmade pieces.

      Tell us about the design of the space and how all the elements – food, design, ceramic choices, and more – fit the overall vision.
      Our intention was to make the whole dining experience interesting and beautiful. The core of the space is collaborative effort with the intention of a certain color palate, and inspired by mid-century design.  

      Five ingredients you couldn’t live without?
      Cobram olive oil, CAP Beauty pink salt, lemon, rice, freshly picked greens.

      Any indulgences you can never say no to? What is your food kryptonite? 
      Scarr’s Sicilian pepperoni pizza.

      The five local, go-to restaurants or cafes you frequent? 
      LalitoCervo’sWildair, Scarr’s, Diner.

       Your ideal meal is… With… 
      Roast chicken on a Sunday with my daughter Paloma.

De Maria’s Beets & Raspberry with Borani

Chef Camille Becerra

  • Ingredients

      • 2 to 3 cooked beets
      • 1 cup raspberries
      • 1/2 cup borani
      • Handful toasted pistachio
      • Sprouts and petals in red and purple tones
      • Sumac 

      Sauce:

      • Beet borani
      • 1/2 bunch dill, chopped
      • 1 garlic clove
      • 1 jalapeno, sans seeds, chopped
      • 1 to 2 cooked beets, chopped
      • 1 cup yogurt
  • The Prep

      1. Combine all sauce ingredients and blend in food processor.
      2. Add 2 spoons of sauce borani into 4 bowls.
      3. Top with beets and cover with a healthy amount of raspberries.
      4. Top with pistachios. Drizzle with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Finish with petals, sprouts and a dusting of sumac.

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