A Mississippi chef specializing in Italian cuisine spent time training in Italy and working in New York before returning to the state to dine with clients at two Oxford restaurants near the Square.
Cameron Bryant is the executive chef of Sipp on South Lamar, at 400 S. Lamar Blvd. a2, and YŪGŌ Oxford, at 1001 E. Jackson Ave.
The Kosciusko native attended Kosciusko High School before enrolling at the University of Mississippi but soon dropped out. His parents were adamant that he get a college degree. So he enrolled at Holmes Community College in Goodman and started his first job at a restaurant in Jackson.
After leaving Holmes, Bryant returned to UM and dropped out again, deciding he did not want a traditional college education. Instead, he started applying for several jobs in different states and eventually got a call from a company in Winter Park, Colorado, where he was hired as a lift operator at a ski resort.
“My mom hates that part of the story because I always tell it like that,” Bryant said. “The reason I started cooking was because I was going to get a tattoo.”
While waiting to get a tattoo one day, Bryant stopped by a local taco shop and started mingling with the workers and the owner. He filled out an application to become a waiter, but the restaurant needed a cook. Bryant was ready for the task even though he had never cooked before, and he fell in love with it.
In 2007, after quitting his job in Colorado, Bryant’s parents continued to encourage him to graduate. He returned to Oxford to study hotel management and worked at L&M’s Kitchen, where Lenora’s restaurant is now located. It was there that Bryant got his first taste of fine dining.
He loved the precision of the knife, the organization and the thrill of providing an exquisite guest experience. While graduating, he said he also helped open Rooster’s Blues House in the square.
Bryant graduated from UM in May 2009 and moved to New York to attend the French Culinary Institute, now known as the International Culinary Center, studying the Italian culinary experience.
“Italian food is just my thing,” he said.
The intensive program included three months of cooking classes in New York, followed by an additional three months of cooking classes in Italy. The program also prepared Bryant for the language barrier. After he finished, he started an unpaid internship at a two-star Michelin restaurant in Alba, Italy.
But Bryant knew he wanted to return to Mississippi.
“I wanted to be close to my parents,” he said, “and Mississippi is right at home.”
Working 60 hours a week in New York was difficult, and Bryant began to feel exhausted. He moved back to Mississippi in 2010 and stayed in his parents’ condo while trying to make a name for himself in Oxford, where he has remained for the past 12 years.
“In New York, there are so many different types of people,” Bryant said. “Somehow it’s easier, and sometimes it’s harder.”
He said you can take creative liberties with the cuisine in New York and still find customers. In Mississippi and Oxford, you try to appeal to a certain demographic, including students.
The menu at Sipp on South Lamar features some unique dishes, such as General Homie’s cauliflower wings which are tempura battered, tossed in a homemade Tso sauce and served with sesame yaki onigiri.
South Lamar caviar is a dish of black-eyed peas, chickpeas and corn mixed with a creamy herb citronette.
One of the entrees that may have influence from Bryant’s Italian cuisine is Rigitoni in a pork and sausage stew. Slow-cooked pork butt and Italian sausage in a red wine and tomato sauce are finished with pecorino romano.
The restaurant also offers specialty cocktails with regional influences, such as the Boo Radley (a literary reference by William Faulkner), made with Cathead honeysuckle, St. Germain, lemon and honey; the Saint Sipp – Saint Germain and strawberry; and the Butterfly Martini, made with vodka infused with butterfly flowers and rosemary syrup.
YŪGŌ is described as a fusion of modern flavors and global cuisines from the same creative forces behind The Sipp on South Lamar. It’s a “contemporary oriental-inspired dining concept that pushes modern cuisine to dynamic new limits,” according to the website.
Bailey Klink, deputy manager of The Sipp on South Lamar, said Bryant was passionate about his work.
“He’s very particular about how his dishes come out,” Klink said. “He also always wants to make sure his customers get the experience they expect.”
Bryant may leave the restaurant industry one day, but not any time soon. He’s also thought about going back to college, getting a master’s degree, and teaching food history, but he’s still excited to work at Sipp and YŪGŌ.
“The day Chef Cam Bryant leaves the restaurant business will be a day of mourning,” Klink said.
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