“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.