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Crave chef spotlight: Rick Moonen wants each dish to have a story

UPDATED: Wed., June 14, 2017, 10 a.m.

Rick Moonen’s demo and tasting at the first Crave festival will celebrate his style of cuisine as well as one of his favorite ingredients: fish.

An advocate for sustainable seafood and the author of the 2008 cookbook “Fish Without a Doubt: The Cook’s Essential Companion,” he’s planning a slow-poached steelhead trout with dashi broth, soba noodles, wild mushrooms, fava beans and “seaweed that tastes like bacon.”

At home, he likes to grill.

“I’m kind of obsessed with burning wood and cooking food,” he said. “I like to bring seafood home and grill it, cook it as simply as possible.”

Ribs, too. And fennel, eggplant, potatoes.

The ingredient he can’t live without? Olive, grapeseed or flaxseed oil.

“I’m big on oils,” said Moonen, who uses grape seed oil to make signature, homemade vinaigrette which he keeps by the quart in his fridge. It features ginger, garlic, turmeric, apple cider vinegar and Bragg Liquid Aminos. “That’s my go-to vinaigrette.”

He also keeps “probably 15 different kinds of salt from all over the world” on hand at home. But, “I end up using kosher salt most of the time. I take advantage of what it does to food. It removes moisture and concentrates the flavors. I’ve done entire cooking demonstrations just on how to properly use salt.”

Moonen owns RM Seafood and RX Boiler Room at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The restaurant features a world-class sushi and raw bar. The newer steampunk-style lounge and eatery serves comfort food that’s meant for sharing.

A finalist on Bravo’s “Top Chef: Masters” in 2010, Moonen graduated first in his class from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, in 1978.

Now 60, the native New Yorker has been hosting Facebook Live presentations “to build an audience and have a better discussion” about cooking, sustainability and the life of a chef.

“When you love what you do, there’s no end to the details you’re willing to oversee or go through in order to make it even better,” he said. “You’re just constantly pushing, pushing, pushing. …

“There’s a depth of story. If a chef is a real chef, they have a story about every single dish. It has to have a story, and that’s what differentiates one chef from another, one place from another, one meal from another, one experience from another. And that’s how we communicate as human beings.”

Mark your calendar: Rick Moonen presents his culinary stage demo from 2:30 to 3:15 p.m. Saturday.