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Andrew Zimmern on 3 Ocean-Friendly Chefs: Rick Moonen

Rick Moonen RM Seafood

Photos by Sampsel Preston Photography

Moonen says. “I’m hoping our culture is ready to get a little more diverse, because that’s the answer."

Locale: RM Seafood, 3930 Las Vegas Boulevard South

The Gist: Located in the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, RM Seafood offers something for every taste and budget. Belly up to the sushi bar or check out the chowder at the more casual RM Downstairs If you're a whale who just took down the house, celebrate at RM Seafood. The nautical-themed room has the feel of a bright, luxury yacht.

The History: When it comes to sustainable seafood, few are more impassioned than Moonen. A long-time culinary activist (first speaking out against genetically engineered food in the early ’80s), Moonen learned about the ocean’s dire situation in 1998 when he endorsed the “Give Swordfish a Break” campaign, aimed at saving the North Atlantic swordfish. Nearly 700 chefs followed suit, pledging to remove swordfish from their menus. The initiative resulted in new fishing restrictions, and after a few years, the species reached 94 percent of full recovery—compelling evidence that giving threatened species a break can work.

The Menu: It’s good to know that sustainable eating doesn’t mean having to say goodbye to all your favorites. Start off with a sampling of oysters (the Fanny Bays will knock your socks off), Littleneck clams, and Moonen’s spicy shellfish escabeche. The bacon-laden white clam chowder is so good that even die-hard Northeastern food snobs will go bananas. Hope you still have room for tea-smoked arctic char, served with Moonen’s mother’s cucumber salad.

The Advice: Consumers can help ease pressure on threatened species simply by eating outside of the box. “Specific fish are targeted because we’re comfortable with them,” Moonen says. “I’m hoping our culture is ready to get a little more diverse, because that’s the answer. It’s about getting out of that comfort zone of shrimp, salmon and tuna.”

Beyond the Kitchen: When Moonen’s not manning the stove, he’s taking his conservation message on the road. He’s a founding member of Seafood Choices Alliance, active in the Wildlife Conservation Society and is a chef’s advisory board member of Ecofish.

The Perfect Meal: Moonen’s ultimate meal doesn’t have fins, it has feathers. “I’m a chef who got typecast into a seafood world. I love squab with a rich, delicious glass of red Burgundy.” 

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