An advocate for sustainable fishing and seafood, Chef Rick Moonen is known for his passion for conservation, as pursued through his Las Vegas restaurants and his work with the Seafood Choices Alliance, Seaweb, and more.
The native New Yorker 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 with Chef Jean Morel before joining the team at La Cote Basque. This experience was followed by two years at Le Cirque working with the legendary Alain Sailhac. Moonen left New York for a brief stint in the Key West resort area, returning to the city a short time later to accept a position with Alain Sailhac at the famed Le Cirque. Moonen then worked as a chef at Le Relais, the Century Café, and Chelsea Central before accepting the executive chef position at The Water Club in 1988. He commanded the popular seafood restaurant for six years, eventually taking an offer of executive chef and restaurant partner at Oceana, where he would receive countless accolades, including 3 stars from The New York Times. His next step was Molyvos, a Greek fish house, and the first Greek restaurant to receive 3 stars from The New York Times. In the fall of 2002, Moonen realized his long-time dream of opening his own New York restaurant–two in fact, rm Seafood and Branzini – with partners Matthew and Richard Harriton. In 2005 he moved rm Seafood to the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
When not behind the stove, Moonen can be found throughout the country educating people about the dangers of over-fishing and ocean conservation. Moonen has testified for environmental and sustainable 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 the Wildlife Conservation Society, Seaweb, and a chef’s advisory board member of Ecofish. He also has served as a spokesperson for American caviar, a more environmentally sound alternative to the Caspian Sea varieties, and he is often quoted for his expertise with various indigenous and exotic fish. His first cookbook, Fish Without a Doubt, was released in 2008.