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Chef Shotaro “Sho” Kamio is having a good run. The founding chef and partner of Ozumo in San Francisco and longtime corporate chef for Yoshi’s is celebrating the 10-year anniversary of his Berkeley restaurant, Iyasare. He also launched a temaki bar in Las Vegas, doling out open-face handrolls filled with ingredients like yuzu-hamachi or spicy salmon poke, and just revamped the menu at San Francisco’s glam PABU Izakaya as a consulting chef for juggernaut restaurateur Michael Mina. But if you ask Kamio, his “good run” is as much about the daily health routine he started 10 years ago as it is his latest accomplishments. Since the acclaimed Japanese chef began trail running 60 miles per week and eating for optimal health and energy, he is more on top of his game than ever.
It all started right before opening Iyasare, his first solo U.S. restaurant; the first was in his hometown of Sendai, Japan, 24 years ago. Kamio already did CrossFit and weight training to keep in shape, but his stress was building. To battle it, his wife recommended he try hiking in the hills near his home in El Cerrito. He took her advice and experienced instant results: “I walked along a trail near the beach, cutting through the bushes. There was a view of the ocean at the end of the steep trail. I got fresh air and an exhilarating feeling. It really touched my heart. At the moment, I remember clearly some of my stress disappeared and I was left with a sense of great satisfaction,” Kamio tells me.
After that, he began regularly rising before the sun — with his standard poodle at his heels — to follow the varied pathways of the 2,789-acre Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in Contra Costa County.
Regular running had always bored him, but the challenge of keeping balance while speedily navigating the park’s undulating, rugged 11.1-mile loop — and the breathtaking panoramic Bay Area view from the top of the 2,600-foot climb — was altogether different. Once his body got used to hiking, Kamio sped up the pace. “As the distance gradually grew longer and the exhilaration increased, I fell in love with trail running,” he explains.
Turns out, the love affair wasn’t fleeting. Kamio has made it a priority to hit the trails five days a week ever since. Now, with an even busier schedule, sometimes he runs in the morning; other times it’s after lunch. Depending on the work demands of the day, he supplements his nature jogs with swimming or weight training.
The one thing that doesn’t vary is his morning meal. With great intention, Kamio has a set menu consisting of what he considers a real-deal breakfast of champions: a blended green drink made from a recipe given to him by his trainer (get the recipe below) followed by a traditional Japanese combo of natto and miso soup.
The green drink — a vibrant mix of greens, fruit, garlic, turmeric, ginger, olive oil, lemon juice, and spices — is loaded with whole, organic, anti-inflammatory ingredients and nutrients. “It opens blood vessels, promotes blood flow, and soothes muscles,” Kamio says. “It also breaks down cholesterol and is good for the skin!”
The trademark Japanese breakfast dishes also have nutritional impact: “[Natto and miso soup] is the best breakfast with rice. Natto and miso are fermented soybeans — they’re very nutritious, fast-absorbing, and high in protein. It’s easy and cheap, too,” he says.
A decade after beginning this holistic health plan, Kamio still has tough hills to climb. He still works seven days a week and starts each morning checking and responding to emails, then reviewing the day’s reservations numbers, staff schedule, and new online reviews — and that’s before he heads to his Berkeley restaurant to get the staff set up for the day or addresses his multiple other projects.
Still, at 57 years old, he’s more inspired than ever. You can taste it in his new additions to PABU Izakaya. Long known for its sushi, the menu is now more closely connected to the spirit of an izakaya, or a Japanese bar offering small plates and snacks that partner well with alcohol, plus charcoal-grilled specialties. Try his wagyu menchi-katsu, which are panko-crusted meatballs made with the prized Japanese beef, and juicy, soy-marinated prime short rib “kalbi” with spicy-salty-citrusy yuzu kosho.
And that’s not all. As he fearlessly bounds toward his next adventures — he’s developing projects in New York City and Hawai’i — Kamio isn’t just more nimble in kitchens and along unpaved trails. He’s found more work-life balance — he puts in an average of 55 hours per week rather than 70 — can claim an impressive 10% body fat, and his doctor says he has the heart of a 30-year-old. His staff would add that his energy is similarly youthful. Before service, he often leads his team in an enthusiastic round of line-up squats. It’s fair to say that Kamio is in it for the long run.
Chef Sho Kamio’s Green Drink
This recipe was handed down from the Bay Area chef’s trainer, a master bodybuilder and coach.
Serving: 1 drink
1 tablespoon fresh parsley leaves
1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves
1 handful fresh kale, about 2 loosely packed cups
1 clove garlic
1 1-inch knob fresh turmeric, peeled
1 1-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled
½ green apple, sliced
1 cup whole cucumber
1 celery stalk
Juice of 3 lemons
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 pinch ground cloves
Combine all the ingredients in a blender, and blend until well combined, about 30 seconds. Add water along the way to reach your desired consistency.
PHOTO CREDIT: Courtesy of Chef Sho