Chef Talk: Rick Moonen, Master Chef & Founder of RM Seafood & RX Boiler

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Rick Moonen - Photo Credit Sabin Orr (HighRes)Photo Credit: Sabin Orr

Master chef Rick Moonen has built a very successful culinary career by being one of the country’s leading advocates for sourcing and serving sustainable seafood. While a lot of people might scoff at that notion, his two standout restaurants at Mandalay Bay, RM Seafood and RX Boiler Room serve up some of the freshest seafood dishes you will find anywhere. RM Seafood also has a world-class sushi and raw bar, plus his steampunk inspired RX Boiler Room brings together the alchemy of creative cocktails with classic comfort food. We recently spoke with chef Moonen for a chef talk session, where he shared some of his culinary secrets and the ingredients that have helped make his two Mandalay Bay restaurants such standouts since the inception of the RM Seafood in 2005.

What excites you about cooking in Las Vegas:
Well, most of the guests are visitors from all over who are super excited to be in Las Vegas because they are coming to a town that offers a ton of entertainment, fun and a diverse experience and also, within the last decade, an added bonus of delicious food and great shopping. Along with all of this comes a tremendous diversity of guests from all over the world and I get to deliver my message of sustainability through my cuisine …all over the globe as a result.

What is it about cooking for a Las Vegas audience that is different than other major foodie markets:
Contestant change of scenery. It’s never stagnant so therefore never boring.

What goes into curating your menu:
I’m going to start off by stating the obvious…seasonality, what’s growing in my garden, and what’s new. For instance, I’ve recently been turned on to kohlrabi, a vegetable that’s been around forever but has been ignored. It’s as if a turnip went on a date with an artichoke. It is the new kale/brussels sprout. And also what is the current need of the environment is an important factor to my menu direction.  Invasive species for instance, that has become a new intriguing toy of mine and I’ve been playing around with Asian carp, Smallmouth Buffalo Fish and Lionfish.

Do you feel a menu can have more “risks” in Las Vegas as opposed to other markets:
It depends on the audience, when I say that I mean, we are very event and convention driven town and must be in tune with our current audience, if you will. For instance, if the Professional Bull Riders Association are the major visiting audience, then you must have a menu with a meat-centric offering, but as a generality, our menus can lean more towards southwest cuisine, meaning spicier, more Mexican in style, and more fiery. It allows us to have a broader spectrum of flavors and cuisine style translating to more fun for us serious chefs.

How often do you add/subtract menu items:
On the average, every three months. What I do, since I have two restaurant concepts, I alternate between upstairs and downstairs, giving each of my restaurant children equal attention.

Where do you source your ingredients from:
Everywhere, from my life experiences. No matter where I am or what I’m doing, I’m talking food with people, through those discussions; I discover new sources every single day. I try to support products that require the least amount of travel. My farm is just 40 miles outside Las Vegas and delivers fresh products to me from exotic lettuces to eggs from chickens fed scraps from my kitchens. dessert Bloom is a blessing and a blessing in relationships.

Do you do seasonal specials:
Absolutely! For instance, in the colder months, at Rx Boiler Room, we run a beef tongue shepherd’s pie, long braised tripe with seasonal vegetables, fish of the season agro dolce, and real bouillabaisse at rm seafood (the real house-made stock based stuff that has so much natural gelatin that your fingers get sticky).

What are your favorite items on the menu:
At rm seafood – sushi, oysters, bouillabaisse, stock based food, whole grilled Dorade with Moonen Mash potatoes. At Rx Boiler Room – chicken pot pie nuggets, buffalo fried oysters, bacon wrapped bacon, braised lamb shank, tater tot duck confit poutine

Describe your restaurants in one sentence:
RM seafood – The most delicious and responsibly selected seafood in the world, presented in a way that won’t make you uncomfortable, and the “best business lunch on the strip.”

Rx Boiler Room– The best crafted cocktails and comfort food in the world… the true and ORIGINAL concept of the alchemy of food and drink.

RM Seafood at Mandalay Bay
3930 South Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 632-9300

Rx Boiler Room at Mandalay Bay
3930 South Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89119
(702) 632-7200

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