Desert Companion

Chef's choice

Chefs

Why let the food critics have all the fun? This year, we quizzed six local culinary luminaries — from high-profile restaurateurs to the city’s most innovative chefs — about the year in dining. Voila: A little praise, a little panning, a dash of OMG-I-can’t-believe-he-went-there — served piping hot. Order up!

Anthony Meidenbauer
Chef for Block 16 Hospitality (Holstein’s, Public House, Barrymore, Blind Pig, Flour & Barley, Haute Doggery and Pink’s)

Elizabeth Blau
Owner of Honey Salt, Made LV, and Andiron Steak & Sea

Chris Decker
Managing partner of Metro Pizza and Lulu’s Bread & Breakfast

Jolene Mannina
Owner of Relish Events and creator of the culinary show “Late Night Chef Fight”

Johnny Church
Chef and partner at MTO Cafe

Rick Moonen
Chef and owner of RM Seafood and Rx Boiler Room

 

What dish this year made you say, “I wish I’d thought of that!”?

Chris Decker:

“The chicken and waffle gelato at Art of Flavors. Enough said. Desyreé G. Alberganti is a genius.”

Support comes from

Jolene Mannina:

“José’s Asian Taco at Bazaar Meat. Jamón ibérico de bellota, toasted nori, flying fish roe. I love that José used toasted nori as the taco shell.” 

Rick Moonen:

“José Andrés’ liquid olives are an explosion of umami in your mouth. A scientific preparation of concentrated olive juice — yep, the juice you put in your dirty martini. Sheer genius.” 

 

Where do you eat after work?

Chris Decker:

“I love the shrimp tacos and jalapeño cheese tamales at Casa Don Juan. It’s my go-to meal.”

Anthony Meidenbauer:
“Settebello in Henderson. Hands down the best Neapolitan pizza in town. It’s kept the same quality since day one, important for a local spot.”  

Jolene Mannina:

“Herbs & Rye. Tasty bar food and well-made drinks. My favorites: Chorizo meatballs, mussels or a steak.”

Rick Moonen:

“Saffron Flavors of India on North Craig Road. Super-casual, well-balanced cuisine, and great naan too.”
Johnny Church: “Ferraro’s. Family-owned in Vegas for many years, and they take pride in quality, simple food.”

 

Who’s the chef you admire most in the Valley?

Elizabeth Blau:

“Kerry Simon, for his amazing perseverance and commitment in the face of incredible struggle. (And of course my husband, Kim Canteenwalla!)” 

Rick Moonen:

“Barry Dakake at N9NE Steakhouse deserves more light on his presence in the valley. His dedication to the community shines through his cuisine, and his humble generosity is admirable.”

Jolene Mannina:

“Nina Manchev of Forte Tapas. I love her food; she’s brought something new to Vegas by adding several cuisines to her menu. Nina started young and is moving quickly, keep a eye on her.”

Chris Decker:
“Andre Rochat. He’s OG! Many a talent has been through his kitchens, and he inspires great synergy with his staff in the creation process.”

 

Restaurateur you admire most?

Elizabeth Blau:

“Victor Drai. He has an incredible palate, is extremely talented and constantly reinvents himself.”

Rick Moonen:

“Giada, believe it or not. She hasn’t settled on an executive chef yet because she cares. I love that about her!”

 

Who’s the most underrated chef in town?

Elizabeth Blau:

“Mark Lorusso, a longtime Vegas chef and great friend. His food continues to evolve and wow.”

Chris Decker:

“Chef Matthew Silverton at Vintner Grill. Food is just as good as anywhere on the Strip, and the place is rarely talked about.”

Jolene Mannina:

“Joshua Clark, The Goodwich. Most people don’t know he’s classically trained and can create a masterpiece out of anything in the kitchen.”

Rick Moonen:
“Gerald Chin is a genius. Enough said. Even if he works for Michael Mina. I miss his culinary input at my restaurant.”

Johnny church:

“Michael Van Staden of Bacchanal Buffet. This guy’s legit. Whoever gets him better be thankful and push his name out there.”

 

What’s your “guilty pleasure” restaurant?

Elizabeth Blau:

“The pies at Chocolate & Spice, Megan Romano’s west-side bakery. Delicious and hand-crafted.”

Chris Decker:

“I love going to Sage. It’s a real ‘big city’ restaurant in this tiny city of Las Vegas. I’ve been known to start & finish my meal with the oysters.”

Anthony Meidenbauer:

“L’atelier de Joël Robuchon. Haute cuisine in a semi-casual environment that makes it fun.”

Jolene Mannina:

“Tacos El Gordo. Late-night carnitas tacos. You can never go wrong!”

Rick Moonen:

“Monta serves up a great bowl of noodles in a flavorful pork broth. My wife is gluten-intolerant and I have to sneak in a fix from time to time. Don’t tell her.”

 

What’s your favorite place to buy gear?

Rick Moonen:

“International Market has unusual gadgets. Keep in mind that I’m a spoiled chef who has all the expensive stuff already. Here is where I get the cheap plastic cutting tools that will break in a week. Just can’t stay away. Watch your fingers!”

 

What trend do you see on the horizon for 2015?

Elizabeth Blau:
“I think people are still exploring the ancient and alternative grains, which I love.”

Anthony Meidenbauer:

“Back to the quality, old-school classics where solid technique rules instead of test tubes and tweezers.”

Jolene Mannina:

“Slow and low is always a winner. Comfort food has definitely made a comeback.”

Rick Moonen:
“Recognizing and celebrating food sources from companies that have evolved as more responsible. True North farmed salmon, for instance. I would have never recommended them before I learned how much they have changed their approach to raising a protein that everyone loves.”

 

What food or dining trends are you totally over?

Elizabeth Blau:

“Snout to tail. Cake pops.”

Anthony Meidenbauer:
“Molecular, and farm-to-table verbiage. I don’t need a paragraph of where the beet came from. Just serve the damn thing!”

Jolene Mannina:

“Mac and cheese 1,000 ways. Kale. The donut craze, mostly because I want to eat donuts everyday. Stop torturing me!”

Rick Moonen:
“Gargantuan piles of crap deemed as something cool. Six hot dogs with one pound of greasy bacon, a dogpile of chili, cheese, foie gras, crème fraîche and Sriracha — just to make it sooo cool. Give me a freakin’ break. I need more room on the airplane. Do a sit up. Eat better, not more.”

Johnny church:

“Tacos. For f----’s sake, it’s a taco, people.”

 

 

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