She ditched her dream of becoming a forensic pathologist for baking, now a three-time James Beard nominee for best pastry chef

Dollita Okine February 09, 2024
Camari Mick. Photo: NYCWFF

Camari Mick discovered her interest in pastry-making at the age of eight. At that age, she had already made up her mind to apply to culinary schools all around the world and spent her elementary school computer sessions studying the internet.

Mick grew up with experienced cooks as parents. Her parents had urged her to help out in the kitchen, so one of her first chores, she revealed, was to pick peas before Sunday dinner. The family’s dining table was constantly adorned with a variety of scrumptious delicacies because her father was Jamaican and her mother was Black American with Southern heritage. But Mick remembers having a constant yearning for something sweet after indulging in the night’s savory treat.

She told Essence, “My parents knew how to bake but that wasn’t their forte. And one day my mom and I started baking together, and I just got really into it and became really good at it.”

She turned her passion for baking into a side business, and she spent her adolescent years selling sweets such as cakes, cobblers, and pies to both teachers and pupils. 

But until her father advised her to think about a profession in pastry making, Mick never saw herself as a pastry chef and instead thought of becoming a forensic pathologist. Mick recalled her father telling her, “You should consider that [pastry making] because people are always going to want to eat and celebrate, and you’ll always have a job.'”

“And that’s kind of how I just went through with it,” she said.

She then enrolled in Walnut Hill College’s restaurant school, where she graduated with an associate’s and bachelor’s degree in pastry arts. Currently, Mick is the executive pastry chef and partner of Raf’s in New York City, as well as the executive pastry chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant The Musket Room.

According to the publication, her Jamaican-American ethnicity is evident even in her pastry masterpieces, including one of her favorite meals – goat tres leches with jerk ice cream. Notwithstanding her gifts, Mick claimed that while forging her own path, she encountered certain difficulties where she wasn’t “taken seriously.”

When compared to her white male colleagues, she remembered always working twice as hard. “I gotta do the 3:00 a.m. shift to prove myself and I have to uphold my standard as well as the standards of others too, like my partners and bosses.”

But that boosted her resilience. She now plans to become more visible in 2024 by putting on dinners and taking part in well-known occasions like the Charleston Food and Wine Festival.

Mick wants to make her mark in a competitive industry with few Blacks. According to Zippia, there are over 176,316 bakers currently employed in the United States. It said the most common ethnicity of bakers is White (60.8%), followed by Hispanic or Latino (15.2%), Black or African American (9.5%) and Asian (8.3%).

“It’s not diverse at all. I’ve worked in some really great kitchens, but it is not diverse at all,” Mick said. “It can feel very disheartening to be like, you’re working your a** off and you don’t see anybody who looks like you.’ So as a young cook, it can be discouraging, but it’s about persevering.”

She continued, “I got to a point where it was just like, ‘I’m here for the education of it all, the experience, and then I’m going to take this back and pour it into a place where it’s more diverse when I’m running my own kitchen. And that’s exactly what I’m doing now.”

According to NYCWFF, Mick, who is a leader with a strong sense of community, frequently gathers young chefs for joint projects. In 2022, she distributed supply boxes filled with products from prominent black chefs in New York City during Black History Month. She sold out on multiple weekends and received significant media attention from all parties involved.

Mick was included in the 2024 Forbes’ 30 under 30 list. Forbes reports that she was named a James Beard Award semi-finalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef in 2022. For the second year in a row, she was named a James Beard Award semifinalist for Outstanding Pastry Chef. This year, she was also named for the same category, making her a three-time James Beard nominee.

Michelin describes the star chef as “NYC’s Dessert Doyenne.” Mick gained pastry experience in some of New York’s top restaurants, like Thomas Keller’s TAK Room, Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin, and Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: February 9, 2024


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