Every chef should love what they do as much as Manuel “Manny” Rodriguez, the Executive Sous Chef at Crave does. His passion is more than obvious when he describes CRAVE, his past chef experience, and how he became a chef. It has to be this passion coupled with his talent that helped him to recently win both the DC Embassy Chef Challenge Judges’ Pick and People’s Choice awards recently. Manny participated as Executive Chef for Venezuela in the challenge this year with a dish titled “Back to Life,” due to the refreshing flavor of the Shrimp and Shellfish Ceviche in a light but delicious tomato sauce. He’s hoping to continue participating in these challenging competitions and maybe eventually make an appearance on Iron Chef or Chopped. If he does appear on one of these shows, expect a dish that is simple, but flavorful, as Gordon Ramsey is his idol in terms of cooking styles.
Manny is one of those people who always knew what he wanted to be when he grew up and was actually able to achieve it. From a young age, you could find Manny in the kitchen with his mother in Venezuela cooking up a storm or looking for the freshest produce at the local farmers market. He also has fond memories learning about Spanish dishes when his grandmother would visit. While Manny may have learned a lot about cooking through his family, he also attended the International Culinary School of Art Institute to further his knowledge and skills from which he graduated in 2006.
From here, Manny worked at many different restaurants and opened his own restaurant consulting firm before finally joining the team at CRAVE, a restaurant in Bethesda, MD offering gourmet American cuisine with a full sushi component and exciting specials. When asking Manny about CRAVE, you’ll find that this restaurant offers him more than a job, but a family as well. This team is unlike so many other teams in both the restaurant world and workforce as they operate as a close-knit family in which everyone fully trusts each other and goes above and beyond to help the people around them succeed. Managing the team with Manny is Executive Chef Joel Hassanali, someone that Manny looks up to and sees as the other half of the dynamic duo that works extremely hard to ensure that the Kitchen continues to do everything possible to help CRAVE succeed.
While food and cooking are both an important part of Manny’s life, he also enjoys most outdoor activities. On his days off, you may find him golfing, kayaking, skeet shooting, apple picking, and visiting local farms with his wife; if he isn’t in the kitchen experimenting with new dish ideas and using his wife (who is both his biggest critic and biggest fan) as a guinea pig.
Next time you’re near Bethesda, Maryland, stop in CRAVE and sample some of the delicious items on the menu. We asked Chef Manny for the best recommendation, but supposedly the food is so good, that it is hard to choose and he offered us category suggestions instead. If you’re looking for an entrée, try either the Roasted Chicken that is baked with a Pineapple Salsa to help marry the flavors of the dish or their beef stroganoff. Other excellent choices include the #9 sushi roll, caprese flat bread, and CRAVE burger. Honestly though, no matter what dish you choose, you are sure to leave in awe!