After six years working under chef Eric Klein At Wolfgang Puck’s Spago. This young talented chef moved to Downtown Summerlin, in Las Vegas, Nevada, at Wolfgang Pucks popular off strip venue. We sat down with Chef Spencer to learn about the man behind the culinary creations and his vision for the Downtown Summerlin venue.
Culination Magazine: 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 Chef Eric Klein. I learned more from him than anywhere else in my life. He was interesting to work for, he was inspiring. He in an incredible chef and diverse. He taught me a lot. I am always learning and only wish I had more time to devote to learning.
CM: You have 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?
SR: I love it out here. I am a family guy and it’s fun to be in the neighborhood. It’s very similar too. 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. I get to meet the families. It’s fun out here. It is a different vibe from what I am used to. Tourists come and go. In my seven weeks here, my wife has been in about 10 times already. It’s a fun family atmosphere.
CM: One of the first things you did was to create a new bar menu. What dishes have you added?
SR: I am trying to add things that are simple, different, but fun. I have added ribbon 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 the run of the mill happy hour around here at DT Summerlin.
CM: What are some of the promotions that are coming up?
SR: 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 $50.00. I have whole pigs coming in for this. We have a big menu for it.
CM: We spoke about the bar menu. What additions have you made to the main menu?
SR: We have dialed in the core menu. I added a couple of new things yesterday. 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 my own specials menu which is my own creative spin. I will cook whatever I feel like cooking. Last week I had a rainbow trout and two different items with it.
CM: Besides your knife what is the most important tool you can’t be without in the kitchen?
SR: I would have to say a spoon. I use my spoon for everything. It’s funny, my baby’s birthday was this past Sunday and everyone was asking me why I had a spoon in my pocket. I prepared the whole meal for it and I had a spoon with me the whole time.
CM: When you are not in the restaurant cooking. What do you like to cook at home?
SR: First of all, I like my wife to cook as much as possible. When I am home and I do 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. It’s dirty and takes time. I don’t have as much time to do it as I like. I grill a lot. If I am not too tired I will try to smoke something. We keep it simple.
CM: What advice would you give someone in culinary school or someone who is thinking about becoming a chef?
SR: Don’t ever stop learning; It does not matter how old you are and when you started learning. It’s a matter of getting in there, putting your head down and asking the right questions. Picking intelligent people’s names 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. It’s fun and inspiring.
CM: In closing, is there any special trait that you feel is essential that a good chef must have to succeed?
SR: Commitment and drive are my things. I see plenty of chefs at the end of the day, and drive and passion is 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. It’s a grind, it’s a long process. It takes a long time. I started making $11.00 per hour after getting a four year college degree and going to culinary school. Hard work pays off. You have to be committed to it.
Story and photos by Elaine and Scott Harris.
About Elaine and Scott Harris:
Journalists based out of Las Vegas, Nevada, the culinary epicenter of the world, they have produced interesting informative articles and videos about wine, travel and the culinary world. They have received national recognition for their work through their online publications Cuisineist and VinoLasVegas. Additionally, for over a decade Elaine and Scott Harris have been contracted columnists to several national, regional and local publications.
Their career has taken them to prestigious events presented by Bon Appetit, Food and Wine, as well as Sunset Magazine. They have traveled nationally covering events from New York to California focusing on wine, dining and resorts. Their international assignments have taken them to world class resorts, vineyards and Michelin restaurants in Europe, Mexico and more. On assignment, they have done in-depth interviews with celebrity chefs and winemakers both in the US and abroad. Many of which can be found on their Youtube channel that exceeds over 200 interviews featuring a decade of work. Their scope of work in the industry has forged international and domestic relationships that include government officials, vineyard owners, winemakers, celebrity chefs, travel officials, resort owners, restaurant owners and directors of public relations firms
Building on their writing career, they are regular speakers at UNLV entrepreneurship courses and have given inspirational talks for the Downtown Project in Las Vegas. Their journalistic recognition has expanded to work with the United States Department of State World Affairs Council as speakers and hosts to prestigious international groups. Social media expertise is very important and they have been at the forefront for many years, using it to engage their readers in real time experiences and daily interactions with Chefs and the culinary world.
Elaine Harris spent over 18 years as a licensed Educator and has put her skills to use educating readers and guests about food, wine and travel. She has served on the board of the American Wine Society Las Vegas Chapter and was named “Wine Person of the Month” by Las Vegas Wine News. She been a featured speaker for UNLV’s graduate level classes. She is a Sommelier through the Court of Masters Sommeliers and plans to continue through their grueling levels of certification. In addition to her experience with wine in sales and distribution, she has many years of experience in all aspects of fine dining restaurants operations.
Scott Harris was exposed to the world of fine dining from a very young age and it got into his blood. After graduating from college he served in the Special Forces of the United States military. Upon leaving, he became an operations manager for an import/ export company for over 11 years and then entered the medical profession for 12 years. Scott is a Sommelier through the Court of Master Sommeliers and plans to continue through his grueling levels of certification.
Scott was also the Wine Director for a prestigious French restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip, as well as Director of sales and distribution for a wine distribution company. He served President of the board of the American Wine Society Las Vegas Chapter and has also been a featured speaker for UNLV’s graduate level classes.
Together, they have learned about wine literally from the ground up having helped with harvest, crush, punchdowns and bottling. They continue to educate and bring interesting and informative articles to their readers.
They are proud to state that they are not CRITICS but prefer to talk about the “overall” experience and have been called Food and Wine “advocates” by many in the industry. They have forged many personal and professional relationships from Vineyard owners to renowned Chefs and Sommeliers. They believe “Wine is a Lifestyle” which brings people together, creating cherished memories for a lifetime.