Cooking has been part of Patrick Munster’s life since his punk rock youth in St. Louis, but he’s been delivering great food in Las Vegas for 15 years now.
The executive chef at Hard Rock Casino’s MB Steak, Munster went from St. Louis to the Culinary Institute of America in New York before ending up in Las Vegas for internship and never looking back. Prior to MB Steak, Munster worked at SW Steakhouse at Wynn Las Vegas for 10 years.
How did you start in the kitchen?
Well, cooking had always been a big part in my family. Food always had this entertainment feel to it and in my teenage years, it was why not do this as a career? I always liked going out to really great restaurants and picking servers’ and chefs’ brains, and walked into one of the best restaurants in St. Louis [King Louie’s] and got a job.
At what point did you know it would stick?
I think I lucked out with working at such a great restaurant, one of the first farm-to-table restaurants. The menu changed a lot and there was no defined style of food so we could do all kinds of stuff and the chef put some trust into me creating specials. That was something I could do for the rest of my life; that’s when I decided school would be a good part, why not get some.
Why stay in the Southwest?
Growing up in the Midwest I never pictured myself in a desert and now I’m in a desert. At first I came here because this was the food scene. I still believe it is one of the best in the country, but 14 years ago, all the big name chefs started arriving. It was the place to go and be. I followed that hunch and I met my wife out here and now we have two kids and a great house, and I can’t picture myself anywhere else.
You work at a steakhouse, and I read you like barbecue … what is it about meat?
I actually just did three racks of ribs, smoked four hours. It’s just one of those things, especially barbecue. It’s an art form to me because of the time and dedication you put into it. Even though its not $100 a plate, the seasoning, smoke, time. The cool thing with barbecue is you can play around with huge cuts of meat. It’s fun for a chef.
What’s your favorite side for steaks?
The ones here, our potato gratin is a classic and it’s just awesome steak and potatoes. One of my favorites is our Miatake mushrooms, stepped out of the classic side dish and roasted nice Miatake with a little balsamic and aged goat cheese. Creamed corn is awesome, again not the traditional soupy creamed corn. We roast the corn and don’t use that much cream; we let the roasted corn and poblanos speak for themselves and add Alaskan king crab.
How important is wine to the steak experience?
I think with the whole steakhouse experience a wine pairing takes it from good to great. If you have a sommelier that will look at a four-top getting a shellfish platter, salad, and sharing a porterhouse, if a somm comes up and says shellfish, this great sauvignon blanc, sharing a porterhouse, I just got in a great Napa Cab. In my experience it’s just as cool as a chef coming to the table to talk food.
Where do you eat in Las Vegas?
It’s hard having two kids, you have to somehow plan dinner and make it kid-friendly. We live in Green Valley so Pizza Rock is great for the kids. Growing up in St. Louis, there was a huge Vietnamese population and so when I first moved out here, I hunted all those out. A big bowl of pho is comfort food for me. My wife is obsessed with ramen, so we’re seeking out all those great places. And Downtown has really cool food, all those restaurants. Kitchen at Atomic. Every time I step foot in Sparrow & Wolf, it’s excellent and we’re treated to some of the best food and service in town.
What’s new at MB?
We have stone crabs right now and we’re working with a vendor in Florida rather than a middleman in Las Vegas, so they’re overnighting from Florida. That’s great, we’ve had some difficulties in Vegas, not being one of the big boys when I‘d order them I wouldn’t get them. So to have a vendor that overnights is great. The season goes to right around March. Then you have the big Christmas rushes, we’re doing a big special. New Years, tasting menus for that. We try to do specials for all those holidays.