Abigail Hitchcock – Owner and Executive Chef, CAMAJE Bistro
Good Food Since 1997
Zagat on CAMAJE, 2013: This “little” Village bistro showcases chef Abigail Hitchcock’s “beautifully presented” Franco-American fare ferried by “attentive” staffers in “arty”, “laid-back” quarters; added attractions include “intimate cooking classes” and blindfolded “dining in the dark”, an “experience unlike any other”.
Abby Hitchcock grew up on Long Island’s rural East End, known for its fishing and farming (fresh bay scallops, stripers, flounder, farm stands, and pick-your-own strawberries/pumpkins/apples). From her mother she learned to love simple fresh local fare and from her father, an amateur chef who enjoys preparing American and ethnic feasts, a love of reading menus and preparing exotic fare.
But it was not until she attended university in England, where she was placed in a “self-catering flat” (shop, cook and feed yourself) that Abby suddenly found that food was her passion: shopping for it, cooking it, eating it, researching it. She began poking about in the greengrocer’s and butcher’s shops and preparing amazing repasts for her English flat mates (happily eating beans on toast)—a New York brunch or an American Thanksgiving for 12— in her tiny kitchenette.
After she earned her degree in botany, she returned to the States and enrolled in Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School (now The Institute of Culinary Education).
With her blue ribbon cooking diploma in hand, Abby went on to work at The Tea Box at Takashimaya in New York, at Vong in London and at the BBC’s Good Food Magazine. She has been a private chef, worked at Martha Stewart Living television and run her own catering company. Perhaps it was her Botany degree that led to Abby’s love of the science of cooking (why do onions make you tear?) and to her three years as a recipe development chef, which she occasionally still dabbles in. She eventually settled down as part owner, then sole owner, of CAMAJE Bistro in Greenwich Village. It has been open since 1997, for 19 years: something of a record in Manhattan.
In addition to being its chef/owner, Abby began a small cooking school at CAMAJE. The classes offer the unique experience of learning in a working restaurant kitchen. (If there’s a sudden rush, students stand back!) She also leads tours of various New York City neighborhoods—Chinatown Shop and Cook is a perennially sold-out favorite. In another popular cooking class, One Night Stand, the student/chef works with Abby to plan, cook and serve family and friends a meal at the restaurant. Applause for the blushing chef!
A certified Sommelier, Abby also conducts wine tastings, in which various wines are paired with complementary foods.
On selected evenings Abby hosts Dinners in the Dark; sensory feasts served to blindfolded diners. The food experience (formerly known as Dark Dining with collaborator Dana Salisbury) has been featured in New York and national media. Abby’s Dinners in the Dark secret menus and surprise entertainment have lured countless diners in search of an eating adventure. New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day, and Halloween Dinners in the Dark events are always sold out.