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October 21, 2014

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Behind the glass

Exhibition kitchens no biggie for First Food’s Jake Mual

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Beverly Poppe

First Food & Bar chef Jake Mual

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Named after First Food's charismatic chef, this boutique brew is part of a collaboration between DeMarco and Tenaya Creek Brewery. Sure, you can get this nut-brown ale on tap, but why not splurge for the growler, the jug that serves a few of your closest friends and makes for a great photo. Designed to be poured at your table, the growler is kind of like an update on the pitcher — just a lot cooler.

If you're ever passing by First Food & Bar inside The Shoppes at The Palazzo, take a look at who's in the exhibition kitchen. Jake Mual just might be in there whipping up a batch of tuna nachos or a lobster roll, and you can watch the French Culinary Institute-trained chef at work. With eyes on him, the pressure's on, but he takes it in stride.

"I've worked in a few open kitchens," he laughs. "So it's not too bad."

A native of Stroudsburg, Penn., Mual has a résumé to match his growing tattoo collection, which he estimates at more than 20, including the defining tribal mark on his head. He's worked everywhere from the Striped Bass in Philadelphia to Capische in Maui, but it was a stint under First Food executive chef Sam DeMarco at Fireside in New York that brought Mual to Las Vegas.

"He just has that no-holds-barred attitude. If he wants to do something, it's done," Mual said of his boss. "And that's good, 'cause that's how I am."

The rest of the staff is the same way, and Mual is quick to point out you'll find none of the cutthroat atmosphere of other kitchens at First Food.

"We're all here for the same reason: We want to do good food and have a good time doing it," he said.

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