Interview: chef Russell Moore (Camino)

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Chef Oakland


What do you look for when you’re hiring somebody to work in Camino?

Hiring is the hardest thing for us right now. I care more about someone who’s interested in the food that we’re doing, that has a good work ethic, than I care about experience. There are a lot of line cooks that have very fancy knives, a lot of plating spoons, and know how to clean really well, but they can’t cut an onion, they can’t butcher a chicken and can’t do basic stuff. I’d rather have an entry level person who really wanted to learn that stuff. Or I want someone who’s been cooking for awhile and has a lot of experience and is into cooking on the line, in a different way than they did before. The worst ones are the ones who say, “Don’t worry, I know how to build a fire. I know how to do this.” Those are the worst people to work with because they have some macho veneer you have to break through before you can get down to, “Let’s just make this taste good. Let’s just figure it out.” We don’t have to try everything in the world to make it taste good. It’s more of a subtle thing. It’s hard. I want to hire smart people to work there.

Who was the last person you fired, and what did they do to deserve it?

The last person I fired had a bad attitude. This person would kiss my ass and be really rude to the other cooks, not take responsibility for their actions. That was really easy. Before that, we had a couple guys who had really good resumes and traveled the world and worked in different cool restaurants, all restaurants you’d heard of, but they were really privileged. Those were the guys that didn’t know how to do their laundry. I don’t want to be the person who raises them. I want them to come in equipped with manners.

What steps do you take to achieve balance in your life, if that is even possible?

I’m not that concerned with balance right now. My wife and I own our restaurant together. I have a fairly strong team right now, and I’m able to be here in Hawaii, which is a first since the restaurant opened. If I get enough people who are strong enough, I’ll get a little more time off, but I really like writing the menu every day, and I really like cooking the dishes. I don’t want to do that until I die, and I don’t mind pushing control on to people who are picking up on what to do, but the restaurant’s only five years old. It’s got a ways to go before I take more time off.

Who else do you look to in the restaurant industry for inspiration, guidance or advice?

My friend Suzanne Goin, who has Lucques, A.O.C. and Tavern in L.A. She inspired me to open the restaurant in the first place, and I still call her for advice. We’re going to cook a party for her latest book. I’m pretty excited. All kinds of people. My friend Evan Rich, who opened Rich Table. I’m inspired by his different take on food. It’s really great and interesting.

Address: 3917 Grand Avenue, Oakland, CA 94610

Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

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