After six years working under chef Eric Klein at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago, Spencer Rudow moved to Downtown Summerlin at Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill. We sat down with this talented young chef to learn about the man behind the culinary creations and his vision for the popular off-Strip venue.
The Daily Meal: Chef, thank you so much for your time today. You came over from Spago after six years. How was your time at Spago with chef Klein?
Spencer Rudow: Spago was life-changing; it was awesome. It was a cool experience working under Eric. I learned more from him than anyone else in my life. He was interesting to work for, he was inspiring. He is an incredible chef and so diverse. I am always learning and only wish I had more time to devote to learning.
You had been working on the Las Vegas Strip, which is a very tourist-driven market. Now you are in here in Downtown Summerlin. Do you miss the pace and action of a Strip restaurant?
I love it out here. I am a family guy, and it’s fun to be in the neighborhood. I see many of the same faces here, sometimes several times a week. It is definitely a more laid-back setting than Spago. I get to go out and interact with the guests more frequently. Tourists come and go, but here I get to meet the families. It’s fun and a very different vibe from the Strip. In my seven weeks here, my wife has been in about 10 times already.
One of the first things you did was create a new bar menu. What dishes have you added?
I am trying to add things that are simple, different, but fun. For example the rib spring rolls. Many people have ribs but we have a different approach because of how we are cooking and braising them; we put our own Asian chili spin on them. We want food that’s going to promote a fun atmosphere, and promote more drinking and parties. Items are priced well and affordable. This is not a run-of-the-mill happy hour around here at DT Summerlin.
What are some of the promotions that are coming up?
We have three flight-night dinners. The most fun one we have coming up is Octoberfest. That’s the big one. All you can eat and drink for $50. I have whole pigs coming in for this. We have a big menu for it.
We spoke about the bar menu. What additions have you made to the main menu?
It’s not a complete menu change. I added a couple of new things yesterday. Then, in a couple weeks, we will add a few more things. Around the middle of October, I plan on adding a pork chop, short rib, and switching out the soup to some kind of squash. We don’t change that often. We want to keep a solid core menu. On the weekend, I am offering a specials menu, which is my own creative spin where I will cook whatever I feel like cooking. For example, last week, I had a rainbow trout.
Besides your knife, what is the most important tool you can’t be without in the kitchen?
A spoon. I use my spoon for everything. My baby’s birthday was just recently, and everyone was asking me why I had a spoon in my pocket. I had prepared the whole meal and kept a spoon with me the whole time.
When you are not in the restaurant cooking, what do you like to cook at home?
First of all, I like my wife to cook as much as possible! When I am home and cook, my family likes pasta and mac and cheese. That’s been our go-to for the last few months. I like making my own pasta, but it’s dirty and takes time, which I don’t have as much of as I’d like. I also grill a lot. If I am not too tired, I will try to smoke something. We keep it simple.
What advice would give someone in culinary school or someone who is thinking about becoming a chef?
Don’t ever stop learning; it doesn’t matter how old you are or when you started learning. It’s a matter of getting in there, putting your head down and asking the right questions of intelligent people who have been in the industry. Nothing is better than talking to a chef who has been in it much longer than I have. I am always constantly reading and learning. It’s a great industry to be in.
In closing, is there any special trait that you feel is essential that a good chef must have to succeed?
Commitment and drive are my things. I work with plenty of chefs, and at the end of the day, drive and passion are what’s needed to succeed in this industry. It’s not just a job. If you want just a job, you won’t be doing what we do. If you are going to choose this industry make sure you are passionate about it. Be committed to it because it’s a long grind. I started making $11 an hour after getting a four-year degree and going to culinary school. Hard work pays off but you have to be committed to it.