Rick Moonen is not exactly a movie star, neither is he a pop-rock music “icon”, but he is a celebrity of the United States’s restaurant industry and maybe the greatest culinary personality in Las Vegas. He is the one who has completed the marketing mix of the Strip’s casinos and he has showed the importance of the taste when it comes to choosing the place where we are going to have some fun and some gambling.
When it comes to celebrity chefs, it’s often wise to catch them on the upswing, before a single beloved restaurant has metastasized into an unruly empire and the chef has been dragged out of the kitchen. For Rick Moonen, that time is now. Fresh off an impressive second run on Top Chef Masters, the sustainable seafood champion’s star has never been higher. Unlike other top-shelf chefs who arrive on the Strip once they’ve become household names elsewhere, Moonen’s career is skyrocketing on the power of what he’s doing locally. At Mandalay Bay restaurant RM Seafood, the chef showcases comforting, casual seafood downstairs and fine-dining fare upstairs produced by two separate kitchens. Someday, you might see Rick Moonen-brand eateries all over the country. But for now, Vegas can lay claim to his one and only. He’s not just a celebrity chef, he’s Las Vegas celebrity chef.
Rick Moonen is a celebrated seafood chef and an early champion of sustainable fishing practices. Moonen graduated first in his class from the Culinary Institute of America and then went on to work at New York City’s La Côte Basque, Le Cirque and The Water Club where he commanded the kitchen for six years. He then became executive chef and partner at Oceana before he opened rm in New York, which earned three stars from the New York Times. In 2005, Moonen closed the New York rm in order to open Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood and r bar café at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Moonen is a devoted advocate for sustainable seafood, dedicated to educating about the dangers of overfishing and ocean conservation. He is a founding member of the Chef’s Coalition, Seafood Choices Alliances and an active member of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Seaweb, Share our Strength and a chef’s advisory board member of Ecofish. Moonen has served as a spokesperson for American caviar and has testified several times for environmental and sustainable policy issues in Washington, DC and New York.
He is on the board of advisors for the French Culinary Institute, a member of the corporation for the Culinary Institute of America, a contributing editor to Food & Wine Magazine and is a frequent guest chef at the James Beard House. In 2010, Moonen was a finalist in the second season of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters.
Rick Moonen believe in the importance of buying and serving seafood that comes from abundant populations which are under sound management. All fish on his menu are caught or farmed in a way that is not harmful to the ocean environment or to other ocean creatures. Rick Moonen is a strong supporters of local fishing communities and take responsibility for our role in preserving a lasting and diverse supply of seafood.
The word sustainable is threatened and destined to be diluted to meaningless rhetoric if big business has its way in very much the same way organic has become a sound rather than a mentality. There is a tendency to poke my finger in the eye of mass industry mentality for several reasons, and now is the time to go after the Non-Targeted Edible Wild Biomass in order to create a better balance in our oceans. The seafood we consume daily is very narrow. We target a minority of edible species and therefore place an unfair pressure upon their existence, causing dangerous futures of these exploited few. There are millions of seafood sources in the world, and U.S. consumers are comfortable choosing from only five main types of fish because that’s what they know and what restaurants offer them. Very narrow-minded, when there are millions available. Many consumers are confused and intimidated by seafood, yet realize the need to consume more seafood for their health. Because of this over consumption of the main five categories of fish (yes, these are broad categories), here is the list of delicious ocean treats we can expect to be extinct by 2048 unless some serious changes are made: salmon, tuna, cod, snapper, bass.
If these fish don’t appear under the seafood options at restaurants, then most move onto another section of the menu. His culinary team has started to introduce a few unfamiliar, but delicious, varieties of fish, which is the first step in educating consumers about other options.
One of the major problems with fish consumption is the identification of some tasty species that suffer from bad names. One of the options they currently have on the menu is Wreckfish from Florida, but unfortunately, it doesn’t sound attractive when considering what to eat for dinner. Yet this fish presents a delicious protein profile, and in the right hands (as in a talented kitchen staff) really kicks butt on the plate.
Sea Cats. Wolf fish. Drumfish. Wrasse. Cobia. Tautog. Wahoo sounds more like fun than dinner. The fishermen weren’t thinking of marketing strategy when the names were being created. So the confusion thickens like a fish stew. Names aside, there are plenty of fish that fit the same flavor and texture profiles that many find so appealing about the Big Five (salmon, tuna, cod, snapper, bass). And it’s time to give those five a break — now! — as we are in danger of losing them forever. This is the Rick Moonen’s concern.
In the midst of the desert, Chef Rick Moonen has built a paragon of dynamic dining from the finest treasures of the sea to comfort food redefined.
In February 2005, Chef Moonen opened Rick Moonen’s rm seafood at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place in Las Vegas. The restaurant includes a 250-seat casual bistro and sushi bar, an 80-seat intimate dining room, a lounge and multiple private dining options. The seafood served downstairs at rm seafood reflects Moonen’s commitment to serving only the best seafood illustrates his ongoing advocacy for sustainable fishing practices and sound environmental stewardship. Upstairs, Rx Boiler Room, which opened in July 2013, combines the alchemy of food and drink as Moonen’s menu creates a spin on classic comfort food with a creative and cutting-edge experience.
Moonen thinks that people are coming to Las Vegas for more than just gaming; they’re planning their evenings around dining now.