Executive Chef Stéphane Beaucamp Brings French Finesse
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Executive Chef Stéphane Beaucamp Brings French Finesse and a Healthy Lifestyle to the Kitchens at Lake Austin Spa Resort
AUSTIN, TX – How do you get to Lake Austin Spa Resort? In the case of executive chef Stéphane Beaucamp, the road passed through Normandy, Paris, and Los Angeles, with Nicole Kidman's birthday party and a bash for Elton John along the way.
Chef Beaucamp was born in Argenteuil, just outside Paris. As a child, he remembers, "I was always helping my parents cook. Dad was always baking, mom was always in the kitchen. They'd get up early just to make sure there was good food ready to eat all day." Minor family financial difficulties set young Stéphane on his career path: "We used to go to the seaside every summer, but one year, when I was 12, my parents were working very hard and told me that we couldn't afford to take a vacation. But they suggested that I could go stay with my uncle, who had a bistro in Arromanches, in Normandy, right near the beach." A summer helping out at his uncle's place was enough to convince the young man that he wanted to cook professionally.
After attending the Belliard culinary school in Paris, Chef Beaucamp apprenticed in the traditionally run kitchens at the city's elegant Hôtel Plaza-Athénée, then cooked at the celebrated Grand Café des Capucines and two other Parisian landmark restaurants. He had his first experience of health-conscious cookery at the famous spa of Enghien-les-Bains, just outside Paris, and then did a stint at the Hôtel le Trianon in Versailles.
Chef Beaucamp might have continued pursuing a classical French chef's itinerary if he hadn't next found a berth cooking eclectic contemporary food at the trendy Parisian restaurant and club called Barfly, where he worked his way up to executive chef. That led to a tour at the equally trendy Buddha Bar, working under Kazuto Matsusaka — a veteran of Spago in Los Angeles and one of the first chefs at Wolfgang Puck's seminal Chinois on Main, an influential pioneer of Asian fusion cooking.
Pure chance, not the association with Matsusaka, took Chef Beaucamp to Los Angeles. "Working in kitchens," he explains, "you always have the bartenders coming through, to get ice, lemons, whatever, and there was one named Julien at Buddha Bar who was always very friendly and positive. One day he came to say goodbye. He was going to L.A., he said, just for an adventure. I jokingly said, hey, call if you find a job for me there. Two years later, in 2000, I couldn't believe it, but he called. He said a French woman and an American guy were opening a bistro and he had recommended me as chef. The timing was perfect. I wanted to make a change in my life, so I said yes."
He studied English, he says with a grin, and then arrived at the Bouchon Bistro Lyonnais on Melrose Avenue — he discovered that everybody in the kitchen spoke Spanish. "Between that and the difference in measurements and temperature between Europe and America, it was a lot harder that I'd expected." He persevered, though, going on to become executive chef and pastry chef at a newly opened celebrity hangout called Vermont. Here, the good-looking Frenchman got to know such celebrities as Charlize Theron, Renee Zellweger, Tim Curry, Adrian Brody, and Nicole Kidman — who asked him to cater her birthday party one year.
As he became better and better known, Chef Beaucamp started to feel the pressure. He had a long drive to work and put in long hours. "When you cook for Elton John, for 780 people," he says, "it's a lot of stress." He started thinking about moving someplace else, someplace where he could spend more time cooking and less time traveling.
“When I went down to visit Austin, believe it or not, the area reminded me of France a little, the trees, the wonderful smells in the air, the friendly people," recalls Beaucamp.
Meeting Terry Conlan, the longtime chef at Lake Austin Spa Resort, who had decided to retire, made up Chef Beaucamp's mind. "Our family lives a simple, eco-friendly, organic lifestyle," he says, "and I realized that what Terry had been doing was exactly what I wanted to do. In the past, the way I lived and the way I cooked were different. This was a chance to bring them together." He's happy now, he says — and so are the diners enjoying the clean, fresh, sensible, flavorful, but not "diet" food he cooks.
ABOUT LAKE AUSTIN SPA RESORT
Nestled along the shores of scenic Lake Austin in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, Lake Austin Spa Resort offers guests the sanctuary of a world-class spa and the warmth of a best friend’s lake house. Lake Austin Spa Resort offers all-inclusive vacation packages, which include accommodations in one of 40 charming lakeside guest rooms, three gourmet meals daily, indoor and outdoor fitness activities and classes, and a selection of spa and body treatments.
The resort has received numerous awards from prestigious national travel and spa magazines since its multi-million dollar renovation and expansion in 2004. Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, Allure, the Zagat Survey, Health, Garden Design, SpaFinder Lifestyle, Spa Magazine and American Airlines’ Celebrated Living magazine have recently honored Lake Austin Spa Resort as one of the best in the country and in the world.
For additional information and reservations, call 800-847-5637, or visit www.lakeaustin.com.