Let’s be totally honest. Despite the fear, loss, and stress of the global pandemic, some of it was enjoyable, meaningful even; a time to discover a different reality, a different truth, a different self. For longtime high-level Executive Chef Rob Moore, (Aria, Prime Steakhouse with Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Lespinasse, with Gray Kunz, to name a few) the self-discovery time that the relative silence the pandemic provided allowed him to realize something crucial about his professional life – he was no longer having any fun.
So, he did the unthinkable. He jumped ship. He bravely chopped and changed, leaving chef positions behind him that many folks only dream of having. Then again, many folks wind up working away their years unsatisfied but too scared to take the risk of jumping out the proverbial plane for the potential of something better, something more fun, something more… you.
CW Magazine managed to steal some precious time for a conversation with Chef Rob Moore, who as luck would have it, left it all on the table, but wound up with…more. His own brick-and-mortar, Rosa Ristorante, (inspired by the nostalgic Italian-American fare from his upbringing in New Jersey) is already a neighborhood favorite in Henderson, Las Vegas.
Your decision to jump out of the Executive Chef position at Prime Steakhouse (LV) was brave and inspiring and this led you to a new exciting time in your life. Do you recommend following your gut?
I don’t know if they call it an accident, but an accidental meeting. I just happened to be at a table with a guy that just happened to have a restaurant that had closed. It all just seemed to work out.
Do you believe in fate?
No. But I think you have to be present for the opportunity when it reveals itself. When you’re doing the right thing all the time, somebody will finally recognize that and want to be a part of it.
What made you decide to go back to your Italian American roots with Rosa Ristorante?
This just happened to be the perfect time in my life during quarantine where I was cooking food at home that I loved. I have an amazing garden in the backyard that I grabbed fresh produce from to cook for myself very every day. I started making pizzas. If it wasn’t for this opportunity, to slow down and slow life down, to see who you are and what you’re doing, and ask yourself are you happy? It was the perfect time for me. I got to listen to myself. And this is what came from that.
Can you share a little bit about your upbringing in New Jersey?
I remember family times when grandma would cook for all of her siblings. There were six of them and she’d make the antipasto salad, and the day before she would start folding a tin foil packet and put it on the stove. I didn’t know what that meant back then. But you know, the pot of gravy was on there so it didn’t burn. And then you know, she’d make the meatballs and the sausage and start the lasagna. I remember trying to steal mozzarella and her shoo-ing me away, which was a playful game that she only had with me. And all the memories of being around the table with the family. You know, that’s what I want here at Rosa’s.
What is your chief objective with Rosa Ristorante?
When my General Manager David Oseas first asked what I wanted to do with this place, ‘I want to have fun.’ So that’s where it starts here. I want to have fun with the food. I want to have fun with the menu. I want to have fun at the bar. For a long time in my life, I just wasn’t having any fun. Everybody who works here are people I’ve worked with before or they’re family members; people I’ve known for a long time. We wanted to create a family-style neighborhood restaurant, so it all starts with the people, your team, and the people you work with.
Speaking of relationships, you’ve worked with CW for a very long time. Thoughts on this partnership?
I started using The Chefs’ Warehouse in the 90s when I was in New York City. The thing I loved most was they were the first company that would break cases. You didn’t have to buy a whole case of olive oil, or whatever it was. Especially being in a small restaurant. That’s what made them stand out from the get-go. But the quality of the product and service of CW has always spoken for itself.
Any advice for young chefs coming up?
Yeah, don’t do it. (Excessive laughter…) No. Follow all your dreams. This is a hard life. It’s not for everybody. However, when you embrace it it can be very rewarding. You do need to know what you’re getting into. And keep listening to yourself.