6 questions with WP24’s Sally Camacho

After landing a spot in the top three during season two of Top Chef: Just Desserts, pastry chef Sally Camacho of WP24 is a recognizable figure in both the culinary world and to foodies alike. But chef Sally’s accolades extend much farther than that as she placed third representing the United States at the 2012 Valrhona C3 World Competition in Madrid, a coveted international restaurant dessert competition. Additionally, Sally has competed and placed in other notable pastry competitions such as the National Pastry Team Championship and the Culinary Olympics. But what do we really know about Chef Sally?

How did you get into pastry? Tell us about the road you took to get here.

I started out watching my mom cook dinner at the age of eight. I baked cookies and chocolate cakes, then slowly moved onto cooking holiday dinners. I knew I wanted to pursue being a chef as a career by age 12. I was determined to go to culinary school right after high school, and I did.

I knew I had a knack for pastry but, I wanted to learn everything about food, meaning savory side as well. The first job I applied for was for a garde manger position. The chef saw that I also went to school for pastry and asked if I would consider taking a pastry position. For me I didn’t mind and would have taken any job in the kitchen just to start somewhere. It turned out that the pastry chef there was a world renowned pastry chef and I ended up learning everything from him. So I just kept learning and ended up working with him for 5 years, so I figured it was a lot of time invested in pastry and it’s too late to turn back. And also, I really enjoyed it.

What is your process? Your inspirations behind your desserts?

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My inspiration is to make desserts that are unique, that they [dessert lovers] can’t get anywhere else; using ingredients that I particularly like. Also, I stress on not using a lot of sugar. I do not like sweet desserts. The dessert should be well balanced and the sweetness should not over power the natural ingredients. Most importantly, TASTE GOOD!

Congrats on placing 3rd place at Valrhona’s C3. How was that experience compared to your experience on Top Chef Just Desserts?

The experience of C3 was different from Top Chef because the six of us who were there, earned the title to be there. We each competed for our individual regions and won. Competing in a world competition is like no other. There was a lot of comradery and respect shared. In Top Chef, there was a range of talent and it was a show. It was based on personality and showmanship, since the audience can not taste your product. Both were great experiences.

How has Top Chef changed your life?

Top Chef hasn’t really changed my life tremendously. I get a few invites to events, but can’t really do them all. We still have to work and pay the bills. I do get a lot of inspirational emails and that is really great. I also made friends that I will treasure for a long time. The memories that we had will always remain, we had some awesome times on the show.

What do you see for your future? Any new endeavors to share?

My future is very open. I still enjoy what I do. I definitely plan on doing more world competitions in the future, but in a couple years.

For the aspiring pastry chef, what tips or guidelines do you have for them?

[quote2]A major thing is that people should not get caught up in TV shows or thinking it’s a celebrity status. You need to work hard and learn to cook, learn to make a proper anglaise or pie dough before you go into showpiece or decor. You really have to love it and have a passion or else you won’t succeed. Also, work under someone – find a pastry chef you admire and learn from them … very important.

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