Las Vegas based chef Rick Moonen has paid his dues. Recognized as one of the country’s premiere chefs specializing in fine seafood, Rick is remarkably humble about his assent to culinary greatness. He says, “I was lucky. When I was at the CIA (Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley) it wasn’t known as the best [cooking] school in America. It was becoming one, and it really had the greatest chefs. I was lucky to be there at that time. Timing is everything. I was right in the curl of the wave on my board. You know, I’m not even a surfer. But when life just kept curling around me, I was ambitious enough and fearless enough, and I swam with the fishes in New York City and it became this network of things that were happening by just working diligently and putting my head down.”
Rick describes his rise to fame this way, “I worked at these small bistro restaurants on Madison Avenue where you weren’t appreciated. You worked your butt off but, eventually, I got to the Water Club. Later, I ended up with a job at the Water Club on the East river; sister restaurant to the River Cafe, you know, and that’s where I really got to run a place that was like a ten million dollar a year restaurant. Huge parties. On the 4th of July, that’s where they shot off the fireworks for Macy’s and it became these great orchestrations of major events and to be involved in that was such an adrenaline rush, you know, and after a while, you get reviews You know… you get great reviews like Gourmet Magazine… and all the magazines… and everything is pretty much consistent. And then I ended up going to Oceana; a restaurant that really changed my life. That’s where I got three stars in the New York Times and became very well known. And we ended up with a public relations person that pushed me on to everything. It became a whirlwind!”
During the first segment of the show, Rick explains the slow but steady string of events that vaulted him to elite chef status. What’s so fantastic about this interview is Rick’s humbleness. He’s a guy with bragging rights who is as down to earth as your front lawn. Specializing in fine seafood, Rick became as famous for social responsibility as he was for his dishes. Today, Rick is known as the Godfather of fish sustainability and his commitment to the protection of fish populations worldwide is unrelenting. “Plentiful” fish and a “plenty-full” belly. OK, enough accolades.
So, what’s the number one, best thing you can do when you’ve got a famous chef cornered by your microphone? Simple. Ask him for as many fish-preparation tips as you possibly can. Afterall, preparing fish correctly is no easy task. Accordingly, we’ve asked Chef Rick several questions to improve everyday seafood enjoyment. Best of all, we get his wine suggestions as well. And Rick Moonen knows his wine!
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