There was a missed flight, then the frantic search for a prep kitchen, but these snags didn’t distract Stéphane Beaucamp on the evening, just this past June, when he made his debut at the venerable James Beard House in New York. The executive chef of Lake Austin Spa Resort in Texas Hill Country, Beaucamp was calm and confident as he cooked in the former townhouse of the late James Beard—the lauded cook, television personality, and champion of seasonal American cuisine—that has since evolved into an intimate, convivial, salon-style showcase of meals prepared by the country’s finest chefs.
Passed hors d’oeuvres featuring goat cheese made at the organic Pure Luck Farm and Dairy in Dripping Springs and verbena pickled squash from the resort’s gardens illuminated Beaucamp’s knack for uniting topnotch Texas ingredients with elegant French flair. Aerated cashew cream and olive dust imaginatively bolstered toy box tomatoes. Black Angus bavette steak, accompanied by colorful watercress puree, arrived courtesy of the fourth-generation, family-run ranch 44 Farms in Cameron. The elderflower custard finale was served with curd spun from freshly plucked lemons. Beaucamp’s food is the antidote to bland spa cuisine of yore, something guests who check into Lake Austin Spa Resort joyfully anticipate at this laidback, 40-room retreat as much as the lavender-chamomile oil massages.
Beaucamp’s food is the antidote to bland spa cuisine of yore, something guests who check into Lake Austin Spa Resort joyfully anticipate at this laidback, 40-room retreat as much as the lavender-chamomile oil massages.
Reared outside of Paris, Beaucamp was just 12 when he laid the foundation of his culinary career by working at his uncle’s Normandy bistro. Years spent in both classic French restaurants and hotspots followed, as did a long Los Angeles chapter, cooking in high-energy surroundings, even catering bashes for celebrities. Beaucamp was more stressed than smitten with this glitzy era, however, and when Terry Conlon, Lake Austin Spa Resort’s long-time chef decided to retire some eight years ago, Beaucamp saw a serene future that meshed with his long-term vision. “I can connect here. The people are more real, it’s more affordable, and if you have a goal, you can achieve it,” he says. “The valley is so green and there are many local farmers and suppliers that it actually has a French vibe—but with the wonderful weirdness of Austin,” he says.
Lake Austin Spa Resort’s gardens, brimming, at turns, with such herbs, fruits, and vegetables as basil, cucumber, and zucchini, play an elemental role in shaping Beaucamp’s devotion to conscientious cuisine, a philosophy that translates in his native France, say, to simply eating quality ingredients nurtured by passionate people. Sourcing products from mindful purveyors—one of his personal favorites is Barton Springs Mill in Dripping Springs, which transforms organic heritage grains into flour, cornmeal, and grits—is essential to conscientious cuisine, as is opting for sensible meal portions. “It’s about teaching people what to eat and what not to eat. Yes, in France we enjoy our cheese, butter, and cream, but not in excess,” Beaucamp explains. Defined by provenance and balance, conscientious cuisine, he adds, never strays into deprivation.
All of the menus on offer in Lake Austin Spa Resort’s dining room conveniently reveal the amount of calories, as well as grams of fat, carbs, and proteins, in each dish. As a nod to the Lone Star State’s affinity for Tex-Mex, mornings, maybe, begin with a rendition of tomatillo salsa migas. Come lunchtime, healthy protein-packed bowls bring together the likes of Texas Bay shrimp, forbidden black rice, and Indian spiced cauliflower, but those reluctant to break free from their LakeHouse Spa-induced trance just meander to the on-site Aster café for za’atar-beet dip.
Visiting chefs drop by the resort all the time, showing curious guests how to whip up specialties from homemade Latin street food to chocolate bonbons, but Beaucamp organizes plenty of his own hands-on cooking classes that involve coveted time picking herbs in the gardens before joining the kitchen team for a collaborative dinner. “We talk about food but also a way to live,” says Beaucamp. “Cooking is about family time and memories, too.” That nightly gaggle of carefree Lake Austin Spa Resort diners who sit down to their cilantro-almond hummus and sous-vide, free-range chicken breasts crusted in pistachio while wrapped in airy bathrobes would surely agree.
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To learn more about events at the James Beard House: jamesbeard.org/events