Personable, soft-spoken Long Islander Adam Sobel has been drawn to the stoves since he helped his Sicilian grandmother stuff peppers and make meatballs at the tender age of 6. But it wasn’t until his mother insisted he attend VoTec, a vocational high school, that he realized his calling.
Today Sobel is executive chef at Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, whose upstairs restaurant at Mandalay Place recently reopened after the chefs redefined the dining concept. He again is teamed with Gerald Chin, whom he first met at VoTec. “Initially, we didn’t get along,” Sobel says, “but now he’s like a brother.” The two do amazing dishes at RM, such as Shot and Roll, which pairs foie gras and sea urchin, and this newest creation, Hawaiian walu inside a cherry leaf.
Though not yet 30, Sobel already has a long résumé. Like Moonen, he matriculated at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, N.Y., and then went on to work with one of the best chefs in the country, Guenter Seeger, in Atlanta, where he learned sauce making and techniques that he still uses to this day.
That was followed by stints at New York’s Tavern on the Green and at Café Boulud, before he was asked by his old roommate Bryan Ogden to open Bradley Ogden’s Parcel 104 in Santa Clara, Calif. (Yes, the Bradley Ogden who has the superb restaurant at Caesars Palace.) The senior Ogden’s use of artisan producers is his calling card, and it was the perfect complement to Sobel’s education.
The Ogden connection is what brought Sobel to Las Vegas. After learning the art of bread making at Chicago’s Charlie Trotter, Ogden tapped him to be a consultant at his Vegas outpost, where he again hooked up his wagon to Chin and Bryan Ogden.
The restaurant promptly won a James Beard Award for the Best New American Restaurant. So many talented young CIA grads worked at that restaurant, Moonen referred to it as “the talent pool.”
From there, he went to a second Caesars Palace restaurant, the French restaurant Guy Savoy. At Savoy, working with the great Paris chef, he learned the true meaning of elegance and hospitality.
“Savoy is in his restaurant every night,” he says, “and no one can work a room like he can.”
Moonen brought Sobel in as a partner and gives him a long creative leash. “Chef Moonen is a spokesman for sustainability and responsible eating,” Sobel says, “and nothing is more important than that.”
He isn’t going to tell you this, but one thing is equally important: talent. And that’s a quality Sobel has in spades.