Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A Reality Check With ... Camille Becerra (Bravo's "Top Chef")

Camille Becerra hails from Puerto Rico, and is the proud owner of Paloma Restaurant in Brooklyn, New York. She incorporates Latin spice into her kitchen, and is all business when it comes to her cooking. She has worked in all aspects of the restaurant business, and often surprises people by her occupation. Her fellow chefs were surprised and upset when she was eliminated on last week's episode of "Top Chef". Camille sits down with RealityCheckByGina to dish about her time on the show.

RC: I don't feel the viewers at home really got to know you during your time on Top Chef. Can you tell us a little more about yourself?
Camille: Sure. I'm originally from Puerto Rico but I grew up in New Jersey. I went to culinary school right after high school. I moved to New York and did everything in the restaurant/bar industry. I worked at clubs, I promoted, I worked in kitchens, I bartended. Eventually, I went to Brooklyn and opened a restaurant and this fall, I'll be opening a new one.

RC: Has cooking always been something you've been passionate about?
Camille: Cooking has definitely always been something I'm passionate about. I love having people over for dinner parties and hanging out. It all stemmed from that.

RC: What made you want to be part of Top Chef?
Camille: Owning my own restaurant and having a daughter ... I don't have time to watch tv. People had been saying that I should be on the show. A friend of mine works at Marquis in New York City and one day, people from Top Chef came in there for a nightcap. She said to them, "Shut up! I have the perfect person for you!" They called me the next day and it all kind of went from there. I had never seen the show but I met a lot of wonderful people. The day I left, I was in awe of the respond I got from my fellow chefs.

RC: Yeah, I was going to say that you and Sandee were both very popular and received a nice response when it was time for you to go. That had to make you feel good.
Camille: It was very nice, I was floored by that! I'm so busy here in New York and, in a sense, I was looking forward to coming back. I was a little in shock when I was on the show because I had no communication with the outside world. I couldn't talk to my daughter, even on her birthday. I had no idea how the business was doing, what sales we made, etc.

RC: What chefs really impressed you?
Camille: I learned a lot from Dale. He's completely creative and a well-rounded chef. I loved Sara (from Jamaica). I loved her passion and she knows everything about every ingredient.

RC: How do you stay focused in a very chaotic & stressful situation like a cooking competition?
Camille: You just do it. Cooking is a very meditative kind of work. It's easy to close everything out. You make a plan and stick to it ... that's enough for me.

RC: Dale really blamed himself for your exit. How do you feel about what he said on the last episode?
Camille: That's sweet but not the case. I was ready to come back. No one there owned a restaurant and it's hard to understand what that is. To me, it made all the sense in the world to leave.

RC: Do you feel you learned something from being on the show?
Camille: Oh yeah! It completely reinspired me. When you do something too long, it starts to become not as interesting as it was. The show refueled that for me. I learned so much from the creativity of others. There's no way of not learning there.

RC: Tell us a little about the new restaurant you're planning on opening.
Camille: Well, it will still be in Brooklyn. Brooklyn is great - it's an artist community for people who can't afford Manhattan prices. It's what Manhattan was in the 70s. The new restaurant will be a notch up from my first restaurant. It will be open later. It will be like a bistro but with a Brooklyn edge.

A new episode of Top Chef airs tonight at 10pm EST on Bravo!

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