Chef Rick Moonen has devoted his career to being the country’s top culinary advocate for sustainable seafood. A native New Yorker, Moonen graduated first in his class from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York in 1978. He apprenticed at L’Hostellerie Bressane in Hillsdale, New York where he built both his confidence and experience working side by side with Chef Jean Morel.
From there, Moonen assumed the position of saucier at Manhattan’s La Cote Basque. This experience was followed by two years at Le Cirque working with the legendary Alain Sailhac. In the ensuing years, Moonen continued his career in New York, becoming executive chef at some of New York’s most iconic restaurants, including Le Relais, Century Café, Chelsea Central and The Water Club.
After six years, Moonen left to become executive chef and partner at Oceana where he helped garner the restaurant national recognition and three stars from The New York Times. His next step was partnering to create Molyvos, a Greek fish house, further demonstrating the range of his culinary skills. Here he brought Greek cuisine to another level, and Molyvos was the first Greek restaurant to earn three stars from The New York Times.
After five years Moonen decided to develop his own restaurant. As executive chef and owner of New York City’s rm, Moonen earned critical acclaim and, once again, received three stars from The New York Times. In 2005, he was drawn to the rapidly developing culinary scene in Las Vegas and closed his doors in New York City to bring his unique flavor and specialties of the seafood world to the West Coast.
In February 2005, Chef Moonen opened his multi-level restaurant Rick Moonen’s rm seafood at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The lower level of the restaurant offers “State of the Art Sustainable Seafood” and a world-class sushi and raw bar. The upper level offers a more elegant dining experience featuring globally inspired cuisine from Chef Moonen’s fun and whimsical tasting and á la carte menus.
Since opening rm seafood, Chef Moonen has enjoyed national attention and acclaim. In 2008, Moonen accomplished a lifelong dream with the publication of his cookbook Fish Without a Doubt, a practical, hands-on guide to buying, preparing and cooking a wide array of fish. That same year his signature Catfish Sloppy Joe was highlighted in Esquire magazine’s “Sandwich Encyclopedia,” prompting a guest spot on The Oprah Winfrey Show where he served the talk show queen this signature dish and it earned the title of “Best Sandwich in America.” In 2009 he was a guest judge on Bravo’s Top Chef Las Vegas and later that year was a contestant on Top Chef Masters. In 2010, Rick was invited back to compete on Top Chef Masters 2, where he was the runner-up, raising both national awareness and thousands of dollars for Three Square Las Vegas.
In June 2013, Chef Moonen transformed rm upstairs into a steampunk-inspired restaurant and lounge, with décor reminiscent of industrialism during the 19th century Victorian era. Combining the alchemy of food and drink, Moonen showcases his spin on classic comfort food, offering guests a variety of playful creations in small and large plate portions, ideal for a shared dining experience. That same year, the restaurant was awarded Desert Companion’s New Restaurant of the Year. In 2016, Chef Moonen competed on Bravo’s Recipe for Deception, where he teamed up with Chef Bryan Voltaggio to win the competition, raising both awareness and thousands of dollars for Keep Memory Alive, benefiting the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
When not behind the stove, Moonen can be found throughout the country educating about ocean conservation and the dangers of over fishing. As an industry leader, he has testified for environmental and sustainability policy issues in Washington, DC and New York. He is a founding member of the Seafood Choices Alliances, which named him “Seafood Champion” in 2006, as well as an active member of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch and Seaweb. In 2010 Moonen was part of a PBS Series, “Chef’s A Field,” that was honored with a James Beard Foundation award for his hosted episode in Alaska about Salmon. During this same year Moonen was also honored at the International Chefs Conference with The Community Award presented by StarChefs.com. In 2014, Moonen partnered as a brand ambassador with True North Salmon.
Moonen has been featured in Food & Wine, SAVEUR, Bon Appetit, Food Arts, USA Today, Travel + Leisure, and seen on Food Network’s Best Thing I Ever Ate, Top Chef, Top Chef Masters, Beat Bobby Flay, TODAY, Good Morning America, CBS This Morning, Dan Rather Reports, and CNN. In addition, he has received numerous awards for his tireless efforts towards sustainability including Chef of the Year by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in 2011; and Humanitarian of the Year by the American Culinary Federation in 2013. In 2014, he was appointed to Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Blue Ribbon Task Force as one of the top twenty leading culinarians; inducted into the American Culinary Federation’s Hall of Fame; honored with the prestigious Vegas Dozen award by Saks Fifth Avenue, Greenspun Media Group, VEGAS Magazine, and Keep Memory Alive; top ten must-know chefs of the American West by theculturetrip.com; and nominated for the 2014 Silver State Award’s Best Chef. Most recently in 2016, Chef Rick was a James Beard Foundation Award nominee for Best Chef: West.