Camille Becerra, owner of the Brooklyn restaurant Paloma, was the first hometown casualty on this season’s Top Chef. (It was what judge Tom Colicchio called “rubbery” pineapple upside-down cake that did her in.) After her elimination on Wednesday’s show, she talked to us about the other contestants and her plans to open a Top Chef–inspired restaurant blocks away from Paloma this fall.
What did you think of Tom’s brutal assessment of your upside-down cake?
I tried it, and it didn’t work out. They were partially right, and you can only take it as criticism.
Do you think someone else deserved go home instead of you?
You go back and forth with that kind of thinking. I own a restaurant so I was anxious to get back.
What did you think about Casey’s eleventh-hour tears at the judging?
Casey is a great girl, but it was a bit over-the-top, I thought.
Did you make any good friends?
I definitely have a special connection to all the New York chefs. When the first episode aired, we got together and Joey prepared something for us. They’ve also come to my restaurant.
What did you think of the Top Chef genre of food? Was it fun to cook?
It was totally fun. Being the sole owner of a restaurant, I’m on a budget. It’s Brooklyn — at the end of the day, my restaurant’s just a neighborhood spot. These guys worked with product that I hadn’t had much experience with for a long time. In that sense, I felt I had to up my game and start incorporating complex flavors.
Are you going to try that at your restaurant?
I would love to, but the restaurant’s a neighborhood spot and I have to cater to them.
I’m opening another restaurant in Greenpoint, down the street. I want to keep them quite separate and different.
Do you think these are the most talented young chefs?
Oh, definitely. In this season, they really shopped around to find the best talent and experience. Friends would come up to me and say I would do well on this show, but I’d never really watched it. The casting director went to Marquee one night, and my friend was working the door at the time and said, “Shut up! You won’t believe it – I have the best person for your show.”
Have you decided who deserves to win?
I would love to see Dale win. He’s who I’m rooting for. He’s very sweet with what he said when I left. He’s also opening a restaurant with a very good friend of mine in Chicago. I really loved his style and his technique. This is the first time I’ve said I’m rooting for one person. — Rebecca Ruiz