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Momofuku veteran chef leaving to cook for Raiders

Updated July 7, 2020 - 11:03 am

David Chang’s groundbreaking Momofuku at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas may not be the first local restaurant that comes to mind when one considers the future of the Las Vegas Raiders, but the two have a couple of things in common.

One is Michael Rubinstein, who’s leaving the restaurant after 3½ years — the past 18 months as executive chef — to take over Thursday as assistant executive chef for the Honest Hospitality Team at the Raiders’ practice facility. The other is a quote by the late, great football coach Bill Walsh, which Rubinstein said has been among the guiding principles of Momofuku.

“It’s something I really enjoyed,” he said. “A dedication to simple quality above anything else. The idea that the score takes care of itself; if we do the work that we’re supposed to do, care about the right things and take care of each other and work as hard as we can, the product will be good.”

Rubinstein said this wasn’t the career path he’d envisioned.

“I’ll say it’s certainly unexpected,” he said. “I never really pictured myself leaving the world of restaurants.” But he said the past few months prompted some reflection.

“I think if there’s any time to explore what is out there in food and beverage, now is that time — to see what we can be doing with our our talent and knowledge,” he said. “It’s a time of great change in the entire world.”

Gary FX LaMorte, founder of the Honest Hospitality Team, said the 30-year-old Rubinstein wasn’t signed because of his talent at making pork belly ramen and fried chicken and caviar, two Momofuku classics Rubinstein said he won’t be serving at the facility.

“We hired Michael because of his emotional intelligence, his culinary capacity and creativity, his team-building skills and his ability to think outside the box,” LaMorte said. “Momofuku was important in his career, but he’s had plenty of other important and applicable work experience. And also his style is very much in line with the spirit of Honest Hospitality.”

LaMorte said they’re pioneering a whole-foods-based nutrition program for elite athletes, working with a nutritionist and a strength and conditioning coach.

“It’s not just what’s going on in our heads, but it’s run through a filter of people who build bodies on a daily basis,” LaMorte said. “The interesting bit here is it’s not just theory, because the NFL strength and conditioning team has the ability to create metrics based on performance that are very accurate. Not only are we going to do it knowing that the wholesome diet will be great for them; we’re going to be able to track results.”

The team is currently cooking for coaches and executives, with the players due to report to the facility July 25-28. And Rubinstein, a Las Vegas native, is clearly looking forward to the season.

“I’m just excited to be part of professional sports in Las Vegas,” he said, “something I thought I would never see.”

Contact Heidi Knapp Rinella at hrinella@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0474. Follow @HKRinella on Twitter.

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