There’s no better place to catch up with a chef as distinguished as four-time James Beard Award finalist Zach Bell than at the humble spot where he goes to for his guilty-pleasure fix.
Bell, who left his top chef job at Café Boulud Palm Beach two years ago to become the executive chef at the Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach, does not work as close to the take-out window at West Palm’s Havana Restaurant as in his Boulud days. Still, it’s hard to stay away from the fried, salty goodness of Havana’s chicharrones, fried pork rinds, his weakness.
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ZACH BELL’S GUILTY PLEASURE
Chicharrones, or Cuban-style fried pork rinds, at Havana Restaurant
- The pork belly, which is salted, poached, dried and then fried, costs $4.22 for a small container. Be sure to ask for a container of mojo (mo-ho) sauce to go with it — and be liberal with the lemons.
- Havana Restaurant is located at 6801 S. Dixie Highway, West Palm Beach; 561-547-9799; HavanaCubanFood.com
TEN QUESTIONS WITH ZACH BELL
1. What’s been the biggest change since going from Café Boulud to Addison Reserve?
(Going from) seared line-cut tuna from Long Island to tuna fish salad – but the attention to detail is exactly the same.
2. What was the last “wow” dish you made at home?
Smoky tenderloin sliders on the grill, made with (chef) Lindsay Autry.
3. Where do you shop for local ingredients?
Fortune Cookie (Oriental Supermarket on Forest Hill Boulevard) and Don Victorio’s (produce market on Dixie Highway Highway). I do a lot of juices and they’ve got great prices – and free eggs. Middle East Bakery on 5th Street for olives. They have this flat pita that isn’t puffed with feta or zatar on it. For seafood – Whole Foods in Boca. I’m really finicky about (seafood). The place has to be jamming for a good turnover.
4. What was the most culinary fun you’ve had lately?
We did three eating trips this summer — Nashville, Chicago and the Finger Lakes — and I can’t put one above the other. The Nashville eating scene is awesome. It’s like Charleston on crack. Chicago, it’s got the diversity of New York with the Midwestern niceness. We go to the Finger Lakes every year for the NASCAR Race in August. Everyone’s really into local down there.
5. Beer or wine?
Either, or. Tonight it’s beer. We’ve got a Dale’s Pale Ale and an Audible (Redhook) Ale.
6. What’s for dinner tonight?
Marinated flat steak on the grill with a Napa cabbage slaw. We kind of have one protein, one veg, always on the grill, in the summer.
7. Favorite meal?
8. Not dessert, not with Jennifer in the house?
No. She’ll be the first to say she’s not a dessert girl. She’s a pork belly girl.
9. What are you most looking forward to cooking?
In a few weeks, it’s the return of the Scottish game birds. I love the fall and winter veg, the hard old-school preparations in the winter… A pigeon chartreuse, cassoulet and choucroute are a few of the labors of love that are simple and soul-satisfying, yet require great care to make them sing.
10. What’s your go-to comfort recipe at home?
We’re so simple it’s not even funny. Linguine and a white clam sauce.