Meet Our Team
Chef, Restaurateur, Author
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 and Chelsea Central before joining Buzzy O’Keefe at 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 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 earned the title of “Best Sandwich in America.” In 2009 he made a memorable appearance as a contestant on Bravo’s hit TV series Top Chef Masters, followed by a stint as a judge on Top Chef Las Vegas where his eponymous restaurant served as the location for the show’s popular “Restaurant Wars” episode – which led to an invitation to participate in the second season of Top Chef Masters where Moonen finished as runner-up – raising thousands of dollars for his charity of choice, Three Square.
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 2011, Monterey Bay Aquarium also honored Moonen as “Chef of the Year.” Second only to his passion for sustainability is his commitment to ending hunger, Moonen puts that commitment into action serving on the chef’s advisory board for the Las Vegas Three Square Food Bank.
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 his seventeen years of industry excellence, Johnny Church’s unrelenting energy, focused drive, and motivational leadership make this executive chef a culinary powerhouse overseeing the day-to-day kitchen operations at rm seafood.
At the tender age of 12, Church heard his call to the culinary arts while working at his mother’s restaurant in Flint, Michigan. His rapid ascent in the culinary industry began in Las Vegas, where Wine Spectator Magazine named him one of the city’s “Rising Chefs.” As sous chef, he helped oversee operations at several establishments, including Turnberry Place, working under German Master Chef Stefan Kauth; Charlie Palmer’s Aureole at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino; Andre’s at Monte Carlo Resort & Casino; Alize, at the top of The Palms Casino Resort; and Paris Las Vegas’ Eiffel Tower Restaurant with Joung Song and Jean Joho. As chef de cuisine at AJ’s Steakhouse at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino| Las Vegas, Church was named one of the “Top Chefs de Cuisine” in Las Vegas by Las Vegas Life Magazine.
From Las Vegas to California, Church was an integral part of Bradley Ogden’s Root- 246 in Solvang, California as executive chef, and executive chef for Michael Mina at XIV in Los Angeles. After his time in California, Church returned to Vegas to lead the kitchen as executive chef at P.J. Clarkes at the Forum Shops, followed by an opportunity as executive chef and consultant of View Wine Bar &Kitchen and Taste Market & Deli, both located in Tivoli Village. With an unparalleled drive and organizational technique coupled with his creativity and personable nature, today Church excels in his role as executive chef of rm seafood.
Church’s emphasis on the seasonality of ingredients mirrors that of his mentorship and teaching style – that learning to work with food motivates and inspires growth professionally and personally. His passionate persona permeates in his food and his family. From cooking at home to relaxing around the pool, Church absolutely adores spending time with his son and girlfriend.