Not Enough Cooks in the Kitchen

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Last month I ate at Camino, a Cali-Med-Asian (that is, no-holds-barred) restaurant in Oakland, Calif. Camino is funky and open, and its look, which lacks pretense, offers little clue about the delights that await. There are long wooden communal tables for you and 29 of your closest friends, over which hang chandeliers that could pass for medieval drying racks. There’s live fire in a wide-open kitchen. The whole effect is even more casual than the upstairs at Chez Panisse in Berkeley, which was perhaps the original setting for tablecloth-free four-star food. It was also the place where Russ Moore, Camino’s chef and co-owner, worked for 20 years.

Moore is a self-described half Korean, half “New England white mix.” He grew up in Redondo Beach and, he says, “ate almost exclusively Asian food, except for fast food and garbage like that.” At some point, he did a three-month stint at L.A. Trade Tech, which he quit to take a job at “a crappy Italian restaurant.” He eventually moved to the Bay Area, where David Tanis, who was then a chef at Chez Panisse, took him on.

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