Zach Bell is no stranger to the Palm Beach dining scene. The industry veteran spent eight years as executive chef at Café Boulud from its opening in 2003, before moving to the Addison Reserve Country Club. Recently, he became director of culinary operations for chef Clay Conley’s Ember Group, encompassing Buccan, Imoto, Grato, and Buccan Sandwich Shop. PBI caught up with Bell to discuss these updates and more.
PBI: Why did you decide to leave Addison Reserve and re-enter the world of public hospitality?
Bell: The club experience was great; it’s a personal level of service that you don’t get in a restaurant. You’re cooking for the same people every day, so they become friends and family. For the same reason, the club world can also become a little constricting. I missed the excitement, energy, and buzz of working in a restaurant.
Describe your relationship with Clay Conley.
We’ve been friends since he came to Palm Beach in 2011. We connected because we’re both low-key personalities, and I was impressed by what he was doing. He’s created a great atmosphere and consistently puts out the food that he loves. We stayed in touch while I was at the club, and he kept asking when I’d be ready to come back to the restaurant world. He’s at a point now where he’s looking for growth and needs someone on the same page as himself, so we finally made it happen.
What vision do you have for your new role?
I’m bringing the structure that I’m known for to the kitchen. My focus is on training and achieving a level of consistency in each place. The restaurants are very different, but we want the same standards across the board.
Any plans to open your own place someday?
No, I’m not driven to have my name in lights. I love being part of a great team and helping people meet goals—guiding them to facilitate greatness.