Chef Spencer Rudow of Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at Downtown Summerlin
Chef Spencer Rudow has a deep passion for seafood and all things pasta. From working in his hometown Baltimore, Maryland, to studying cooking in Italy and working on the Strip, Chef Rudow has spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Now Executive Chef at Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at Downtown Summerlin, Chef Rudow discusses his various experiences and the advice he has for young chefs.
How did being raised in Maryland influence you as a chef?
While growing up in Maryland everything was always crabs and seafood, so my biggest love has always been seafood, along with Italian cuisine. My earliest food memory as a two-year-old was cracking and eating crabs with my family and my grandparents. My grandparents were the cooks that I picked up a lot from, not so much an inspiration, but more the idea of bringing family together, sitting down and breaking bread.
How did you choose to become a chef?
I always loved food and loved to cook. I was a double psychology major in college and realized soon enough it wasn’t for me. I looked for a career change and I always went back to my love for food, eating and cooking. So, I decided culinary school was what I was going to do.
What was your experience at the French Culinary Institute in New York like and what did it teach you about being a chef?
I was part of the Italian Curriculum at FCI in NY and worked in Italy as part of my schooling. I toured Northern Italy for part of it and then in Southern Italy, in Capri, for the other part. It was life-changing living there. I was submerged into the Italian culture and language and every single day in school I was learning about a different region in Italy and traditional plates within them. It was there that I found my love of Italian cuisine and pasta making. I learned the building blocks of what makes a great chef - cooking techniques, the business aspect of running a restaurant, connecting with your food and using the freshest product from order to delivery and ultimately how that applies in a restaurant setting.
How did you decide to come to Las Vegas following culinary school?
After school I came back to Baltimore and worked in catering for a year before I moved out to Las Vegas for an opportunity to work for Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group. I had been following Chef Wolfgang’s restaurant presence in Las Vegas and saw a position open up at Pizzeria & Cucina by Wolfgang Puck and before I knew it I packed up my things and moved to be a line cook. When I became a line cook at Pizzeria & Cucina by Wolfgang Puck now Cucina by Wolfgang Puck, I learned a lot from Dustin Lewandowski, Executive Chef. He taught me how to look at the big picture, manage other chefs, how to be a businessman and balancing a budget, among others. There are so many aspects to running a restaurant. I’m so grateful that I was exposed to so much learning at such a young age.
What did you enjoy about working on the Strip and how does it differ from working in a neighborhood restaurant now?
On the Strip I enjoyed the atmosphere, the energy, being able to cater to a variety of different tastes and honing in on that. I met not only fans of our restaurants from across the world, but new guests during their first-time dining with us. It’s a whole different world. At Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill at Downtown Summerlin, I enjoy the familiarity of my guests and my connection to them. I know everyone coming in here, the family atmosphere we’ve created for them, and really, establishing that local following has been something I cherish. It’s important to me that my customers know me, and I know them.
Have you helped build the menu at Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill?
A lot of people have had their hands in creating the menu here. It’s been an ongoing process and it’s in a good spot now where I have some of my own dishes on it and some of Wolfgang’s staples. I get to experiment and do my own take on plates through our inserts and specials. For the most part I have a say in what we do, but it’s a group effort at this restaurant. I work more closely with my bosses here than I ever have down on the Strip. I feel honored to be a part of a greater purpose and vision within a restaurant program I admire. I get to work with an incredible staff, I am always learning and I enjoy connecting with our guests.
Do you have any advice for young chefs?
Being in this industry, the biggest piece of advice I always offer young chefs is always to educate, read, do research, and see what other restaurants are doing. It’s such a close-knit industry that we all gain inspiration from each other.