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April 18, 2014

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Chris Moonen follows father into restaurant industry

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Leila Navidi

RM Seafood downstairs dining room manager Chris Moonen

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Named for its creator, RM bartender Tony Gardner, this cocktail takes Chef Moonen's standards for freshness into another realm, pairing cucumber- and rose petal-infused Hendrick's gin with lemon juice, simple syrup and fresh basil leaves. The result just might be the freshest (and most refreshing) drink you've had all year.

When Chris Moonen stepped off the plane last December, he couldn't have imagined what lay in store for him in Las Vegas. He had just spent the last year in South Korea, and prior to that, two years as a middle school teacher in Boston. But the move to the West Coast gave him the opportunity to reconnect with his father, Rick, the chef and owner of one of the city's most esteemed restaurants, RM Seafood at Mandalay Place.

"For years, I've been telling people I will never work for my father," Chris said. "But he's one of the best people in the biz, and you know what? If I'm going to learn it, there's nobody better."

Chef Moonen, known throughout the world for his emphasis on sustainable cooking, took Chris under his wing, setting him up as the opening manager in the downstairs dining room at RM four days a week. The rest of the week, Chris interns with the computer software company Avero, which specializes in analyzing food and beverage operations.

Growing up with a chef for a father had its expected perks, and besides accompanying Rick at cooking events in Disney World and getting to meet a few members of the New York Rangers, Chris became exposed to foods many kids would not experience (let alone enjoy) until much later.

"In my fifth-grade yearbook, they had questions they asked you, and one was 'What is your favorite food?' Everybody said pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers. Mine was smoked salmon."

— Originally published in Las Vegas Magazine

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