If Florida has a list of rising-star chefs, Zach Bell undoubtedly is near the top. As executive chef at Cafe Boulud in Palm Beach, Bell earned kudos from Wine Spectator and numerous other publications, and the restaurant garnered four stars from Mobile Travel Guide. And he has been a finalist for best chef in the region by the James Beard Foundation Awards four times. Oh, and looky here: he was recently named Rising Star Chef of the Year for the South by Star Chefs.
So why did he leave Daniel Boulud’s high profile restaurant, and why has he accepted the position of executive chef at a private country club?
I haven’t been able to get any good answers, though there’s plenty of conjecture. Some wonder if Bell and his wife, Jennifer, might be wanting to start a family. The demands of a chef at a conventional restaurant — especially one located in a hotel, as Cafe Boulud is — are great. Late nights, weekends and holidays are part of the deal. Taking the job at Addison Reserve Country Club in Delray Beach will undoubtedly give him better home hours.
And, some say, he was finally frustrated with the four tries at the Beard Award without taking home the medallion.
A more likely reason? Word is that Bell stands to make somewhere around $300,000/year cooking at Addison.
(I wonder how many readers I just lost because they left to Google “cooking schools”?)
Cafe Boulud’s new chef, as reported by my friend and fellow flogger Jan Norris, is James Leiken, who was previously at Boulud’s DBGB in New York. He starts his duties July 4.