Spend a few minutes with Camille Becerra and it’s evident that she’s a traveler.
Maybe it’s the Maison Michel hat she’s never without, or her barely made-up face, or the pouch of what she calls her “naughty tobacco” that she throws in her Carry On before heading off to Majorca, Paris, or Oaxaca. Or it could be because her recently opened De Maria restaurant feels more European than downtown New York, where it’s located on Kenmare Street near Bowery.
“It has that relaxed all-day vibe, which is really beautiful, I think,” she says from her apartment in a converted school building in Chinatown. “It’s inspired by [the European cities] where you just roll out of bed, go to your local corner spot for coffee, and then meet friends before dinner.”
When she’s not at De Maria, she travels the world cooking for private clients—and gathering inspiration. “It’s about understanding the food culture,” she says. “Every city’s population has a different way of eating. To understand that in Mexico City they have a really big breakfast culture or in Spain they eat late at night is really interesting to me.”
She brings back physical inspiration, too, in the form of succulents, spices, tins, and even dried worms from Mexico. Her apartment, which she shares with her daughter, Paloma, is full of these treasures—gemstones, drawings, rugs, and linens.
But for all her exotic discoveries, she has one expected favorite. “Paris is one of the only other cities I would ever consider living in,” she says. “Most culinary schools in the States are based on classical French cuisine, so it’s really nice to go to the motherland.” Her favorite restaurants in France’s capital? Le Verre Volé, Le Dauphin, and Au Passage, to name a few. Plus, wine stores that double as small-plates restaurants. “I love the idea of going to a shop, tasting some wine, having a snack, grabbing a bottle, then going home and cooking,” she says.
Becerra’s packing list is equally charming: Thom Browne shoes, an old Ralph Lauren button-down that she dyed after it became stained, her lucky apron from Merci in Paris, incense for her morning meditation, and her own custom spice blends. Plus, “rose petals, because they make everything prettier.”
For Becerra, it’s the world’s beauty that continues to motivate her.
“When you travel, you’re always picking up something that defines your future jobs and projects,” she says. “Travel is so great because you experience it—it’s not like you read about it or see it in a picture. You experience it, so it becomes part of you.”