THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES TAKE -2–AMERICAN CHEF : RUSSELL MOORE
The Électrons Libres, is a group of chefs that are as individual or a leaders of a group have taken a unique route that goes beyond the learning process. Their philosophy transforms the cuisine of the present time as well as the cuisine of the future in a specific area (place) or country. Sometimes they are the leaders of a culinary movement but often, they are alone in their search.
It is difficult to link this vast and populous country to a unique culinary style. We could easily create five categories, but after the emergence of American cuisine and Star chefs, there are currently several very creative chefs with an international background is deeply rooted in their locality (terroir).
Russell Moore is undoubtedly close to his region, one of the most dynamic U.S., The Bay Area (San Francisco, Oakland and more …). After a long passage under the command of Chef David Tanis (Chez Panisse), Chef Moore has created a cuisine with a unique personality in his cozy restaurant in Oakland. In Camino, he use the best regional products and he cook them very simple way (and complicated too) in a Wood-burning brick-oven. That is the Art of controlling the fire and cooking like teach and preach by the great chef Alain Passard.
A blend of Italian regional cuisine with the winter cuisine (or survivor) of Magnus Nilsson (Fäviken), bonus, the abundance of local produce (and California). The master of fire for long time. Stay tuned!
Q+A WITH RUSSELL MOORE (www.caminorestaurant.com ):
1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine at CAMINO and what is it main characteristics?
RMoore- The philosophy behind the food at Camino is very old fashioned and grandmotherly: local, seasonal -+ingredients, cooking in a fireplace and wasting as little as possible. These self-imposed limitations make us thoughtful and resourceful in our approach to ingredients and cooking.
2-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?
RMoore- As a child I ate almost exclusively Asian food. My mother is Korean and we lived in a neighborhood with Japanese, Korean, Chinese and some Vietnamese food nearby. That’s what I think of when I think about the food of my childhood. We don’t use many of those flavors at Camino but I think exposure to different cuisines in the world makes cooking more interesting.
3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?
RMoore- I have a particular fondness for herbs. We use many different herbs in many different combinations. I particularly like chervil, anise hyssop, sorrel, nepitella, and wild fennel. We also try to fit as many vegetables on our small menu as we can.
4-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?
RMoore- I was hired by David Tanis when I started at Chez Panisse. He has definitely influenced my approach to cooking and he is still one of my favorite cooks. I am also excited by the new wave of modern cooks in the Bay Area that use great produce in completely different ways than we do at Camino.
5-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu?
RMoore-I am in constant conversation with the farmers and our fish monger so I know what I will be available. Being in touch with these people is the true inspiration for the menu.
Each night after service one of the cooks does a detailed inventory of what is at the restaurant. In the morning I pour over this and the list of what I ordered to come in that day. Then I look at the schedule to see who is cooking and what station I am working. I have to admit I usually pick what I want to cook at my station and make the rest fit around that.
I often start with the vegetarian main course to ensure that it gets the most interesting ingredients and doesn’t end up as the sad forgotten vegetable mish mash. Then I try to imagine eating with other people and how the dishes can make sense in the context of one meal even if people are ordering different things. I try to make the menu work in several different ways-a quick bite, a traditional 3 course meal or a longer more elaborate meal.
The menu is tweaked throughout the day as an idea comes up that will change the menu for the better. Right before we open the restaurant, we taste each dish and make more changes- unless everything works as planned (rare).
6-(Scoffier) I seen you often use a fireplace or wood burning oven to cook. What are the principal reasons and is this a limit for your creativity?
RMoore- We cook most of our food in our fireplace and wood burning oven. I like the limitations it puts on our food. It also gives it direction and personality. Because the fire is always changing—growing and diminishing – it forces a cook to be completely engaged. You can’t put a piece of fish on the grill in the same spot each time and expect the same result, but if you pay attention you will know what is going to happen.
7-(Scoffier) Compare at others countries, in California, you have the chance to cook with the best products (fresh & local) all the year. Is it possible to define a style or a cuisine typically Californian?
RMoore- California is a big state and I think it can be broken up into regions. In the Bay Area we have many micro climates – therefore we have a wide range of produce at any given time. I think “Bay Area Cuisine” is still developing. Chez Panisse taught people to revere fresh, local ingredients and made it the standard for restaurants to buy directly from farmers and ranchers. Now there is a whole new generation of cooks who have not worked at Chez Panisse but who have that philosophy as a backdrop to their own cuisine. Ultimately, I think Bay Area Cuisine will be tied to the land but I see a lot of chefs here who using a technique-driven style that still maintains the true taste of the ingredients.
8-(Scoffier) I seen many excellent chefs who opened a restaurant in Oakland. There is a reason for that?
RMoore- The cool thing about Oakland is that the population is diverse in age, economic means and race and all these people are interested in and knowledgeable about food. There is also a feeling that you can break the rules a little; that it’s easier to break the mold of what a restaurant is supposed to be.
9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Russell Moore and Camino?
RMoore-Recipe: Artichokes Cooked in the Coals
10-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?
RMoore- Our only goal at Camino is to stay here, just have this one restaurant. When you change the menu every day there is lots of room to improve and evolve over time. We have some fledgling ideas for a book but not a normal cookbook so I don’t know who would want to publish it.
RECIPE: Artickokes Cooked in the Coals
Ingredients & Progression Recipe
-6 medium size artichokes-
-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
-1 cup torn mint leaves (can substitute marjoram or oregano)
-Fruity olive oil
-1 loaf baguette or batard, sliced 1 inch thick on the diagonal
-2 cups sheepsmilk ricotta (can substitute cow’s milk ricotta)
-3 cups tender herbs such as chervil, parsley, mint and chives
1. Cut the tops off of 6 medium sized artichokes and trim the stem to about 2 inches. With a tablespoon do your best to scrape out the choke—don’t worry too much if you can’t get it all out.
2. Mix the chopped garlic with torn mint leaves and a pinch of salt. Push the mixture into the center of the hollowed out artichoke and between the leaves (it helps if you pry the leaves open with one hand while shoving the mixture down with the other one).
3. Spread a bed of coals out evenly. Carefully place the artichokes stem side down into the coals leaving a few inches between each artichoke. Wiggle the artichokes down until only the cut surface is exposed. Now, very carefully drizzle about a ¼ cup of olive oil into each artichoke. Try not to spill too much on the outside of the artichoke as this will cause flare-ups.
4. Every few minutes lift the artichokes out and turn them a bit. The goal is to evenly burn the outside as the inside steams. This is not a perfect art; it will get a bit messy. The artichokes are done when the inside leaves can be pulled out easily. This will take between 30 minutes to an hour depending on the age of the artichoke and the intensity of the fire.
5. Let the artichokes cool for at least 10 minutes. Gently pull off the burnt outer leaves and trim away the burned parts of the stem. You should end up with all the tender leaves and hearts.
6. Toss the herbs with a little olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Serve the artichokes with some grilled bread, a spoonful of ricotta and herb salad.
-Camino/Chef Russell Moore
3917 Grand Avenue
1. Charred to Perfection… by Katy McLaughlin, Wall Street Journal, December 11, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748703989004575653170168924824.html
2. Savorycities.com (Video), September 2009, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2krDrGoA2s
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