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Gabriela Cámara Is No Longer Involved With Santa Monica’s Onda

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Onda was supposed to be one of the biggest openings of 2019. Instead the Koslow-Cámara partnership is over.

Chefs Gabriela Cámara and Jessica Koslow stand for a portrait.
Gabriela Cámara and Jessica Koslow
Dylan + Jeni
Mona Holmes is a reporter for Eater Los Angeles and a regular contributor to KCRW radio. She has covered restaurants, dining, and food culture since 2016. In 2022, the James Beard Foundation nominated her for a Jonathan Gold Local Voice Award.

Acclaimed Mexican chef/restaurateur Gabriela Cámara shared via social media that she’s not involved with Onda in Santa Monica. Last October, Cámara opened the Westside restaurant with Sqirl owner Jessica Koslow inside the Proper Hotel in Santa Monica. That partnership appears to be effectively over, according to Cámara’s Instagram feed.

In an Instagram post dated July 19, 2020, Cámara stated the following:

“We’ve been asked if we’d recently opened a Contramar abroad, and I need to say ABSOLUTELY NOT. Contramar which opened in Mexico City almost 22 years ago is the one and only #contramar For now, @contramarmx @entremarmx @expendiodurango @calasf & @tacoscala are the only places I am responsible for. I do want to share I’m super excited about our upcoming project in downtown Mexico City: @itacatedelmar Stay tuned!”

In the comments, inquiring folks asked Cámara if she was still involved with Onda, to which she wrote, “not anymore!” though the chef also replied “ya no esta ni abierto (it’s not even open)” to another comment asking about her involvement in the Santa Monica restaurant.

It’s unclear whether Cámara announcement was related to Koslow’s recent troubles at Sqirl. Early last week, Koslow became quickly embroiled in a battle over Sqirl’s legitimacy. Koslow’s former and present staff accused her of concealing moldy jam, erasing the creative contributions of its employees, and operating a hidden, unregulated second kitchen. There’s also the discussion around Koslow’s role in the gentrification of Virgil Village.

In an Eater investigation from last Thursday, former Sqirl catering chef Balo Orozco — one of the creative forces at Onda — believed that all menu decisions would be handled as a team. But Orozco found the collaborative relationship between him and Koslow “never happened.”

Cámara is arguably one of Mexico’s most distinguished chefs and restaurant owners, with Mexico City’s Contramar as her most notable. Her work is well-known at Cala in San Francisco. Cámara’s partnership with Koslow was one of 2019’s most covered of the year, with reviews from the Los Angeles Times and Fortune, profiles in Food & Wine, Los Angeles Magazine, and Eater, a mention in Architectural Digest, along with somewhat curious opening coverage in Bon Appetit’s Healthyish.

Healthyish spoke of the challenging label as a “power duo,” and described numerous delays, Cámara’s increased responsibilities in Mexico City, and her ultimate departure from California in 2019 to Mexico City.

When reached for comment, a spokesperson provided the following statement from Koslow:

“As of right now, there is no news regarding Onda, which is to say no changes of ownership, management or really anything else. Because of COVID Onda remains closed, the staff is furloughed and we really don’t know what it’s going to look like on the other side.”

UPDATE July 21, 2020: Eater heard back from Cámara, who said she has not been involved with Onda since February, 2020.


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