Nestled in the Texas Hill Country, Lake Austin Spa is a true sanctuary for rest and renewal. Situated in the midst of green, rolling hills, beautiful lakes, and sweeping views, it is the perfect escape, whether for a weekend or weeklong getaway. It has been recognized as one of the top destination spas in the world, and with its exclusive lakefront setting, cozy accommodations, welcoming staff, and award-winning spa, it is no wonder that it has a loyal and discerning clientele. A renowned spa resort would not be complete without offering an impressive culinary experience and Lake Austin Spa’s Executive Chef Stéphane Beaucamp has quite the repertoire. The lakefront dining room, Aster Café, embraces a conscientious cuisine philosophy while providing a culinary experience that merges French influences with local inspiration.
Whether grown on property in the organic garden or sourced locally, Chef Stéphane Beaucamp creates a rotating menu that easily tempts any palate.
When did your interest in food and the culinary arts begin?
Around 12 or 13 years old. My mom, grandma, and dad are great cooks and I was lucky enough to be around the kitchen a lot, since my mom didn’t believe in buying snacks, my sister and I had to find a way to make sweets after school, so we quickly went through my mom’s old cookbook that had missing pages and notes on others and start making traditional French desserts like crepes, iles flottante, crème caramel, gateau au yaourt. I realized that it was fun to make your desserts because you could always add things to them or changes ingredients. I had few great ones and many failures that we ate anyway. My mom realized that I was interested in cooking but in the mid-’80s, being a chef wasn’t as cool as it is now with all reality shows and magazines or movies, so my mom sent me to my uncle that owned a hotel restaurant in Normandie to make me work during the summer with his crazy chef and she also sent me on the weekend during the school week to be a dishwasher in a neighborhood restaurant to try to make me change my mind.
But both my uncle and the owner of the restaurant told her that I was a great worker and was learning quickly and seem passionate about being in the kitchen, so my mom signed me up at the culinary school Belliard in Paris and sent me for 2.5 years as an apprentice of Master Chef Claude Barnier at the Hotel Plaza Athenee (Avenue Montaigne, Paris).
Where do you get inspiration for your menus?
Lake Austin Spa Resort is a fantastic place to find inspiration. Our garden, the landscape, the nature all around us. Always trying to do a clean food that compliments who we are as a brand.
How often does the menu change?
We usually change our menu twice a year, but we often do ongoing “refreshes” with one new item here and another new item there, this year, during the Covid shutdown, I re-conceptualized the entire thing.
What are some of the challenges and benefits of operating in a hotel?
The challenge is that our guests are staying between 3 to 4 days and sometimes more, so we need to keep them excited about our menu, so that is why we have our daily dinner specials. The benefit is that I’m pushing my team and sous chef to be creative and work with what our garden offers, so with time each cook gets better and better for the benefit of our guests.
How long have you been with Lake Austin Spa and Resort?
I started at Lake Austin Spa Resort on March 11, 2011, so 10 years!
Is it a challenge to make food tasty and healthy at the same time?
Yes, it can be a challenge for some dishes, when all are vegan or gluten-free and dairy-free, but the past few years I have studied vegan food and gluten-free food and realized that you could mix healthy and flavors without using butter or cream or cheese and trust me coming from a Frenchman it’s hard to say, but we are now in a place where each day we are trying new things and learning new ways to do things without altering the flavors of our dishes.
Favorite meal from your childhood?
I have many. But my grandma used to make a potato cake (diced sautéed potatoes, parsley, onion, garlic and folded with shredded Comte Cheese and then finished in the oven, so the cheese was melting and held everything together and she was un-molding it like a cake and cut a slice of it, usually served with a steak) so good, my belly is making sounds just talking about it, she was the best.
What is your favorite cuisine to cook and why?
Mediterranean food, because of all the country around the Mediterranean Sea. And all the colorful ingredients of Moroccan cuisine, Lebanese, Greek, Italian, Spanish, etc. All using fresh ingredients.
How do you feel about social media platforms like Instagram becoming vital portals for food inspiration?
Well, I often send Instagram captures to my cooks, for plate presentation or inspiration in making the meal look more like art. I have a young cook that is great with flavors but not so much with plating, so I constantly send him images to look at. But also, I remember seeing chefs position plates that were beautiful and my china supplier telling me that the plates on his Instagram account are not even on the menu because the dish was too complicated to make. So much of what people see is not even the real food that’s being served at restaurants. I like to post the food that we serve to our guests.
What are the most prominent ‘healthy or clean eating’ myths you would like to dispel?
Thinking that organic food has a better nutritional value
Are there any chefs whom you admire or have been role models in your career?
Chef Alain Passard, Pierre Gagnaire, Alain Ducasse, Michel Bras, Michel Guerard and Charlie Trotters
Any ingredient that you just would rather not cook with?
High Fructose corn syrup
The one kitchen tool you cannot live without.
A good Swiss peeler