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We sat down with the Chef behind the gorgeous dishes at Chops Boca to talk about how his first night on the job, what he loves most about being a chef, and his biggest accomplishment yet.
How long have you been the Executive Chef of Chops Boca?
It’ll be 2 years in July.
What do you remember about your first night there?
I remember Pano introducing me as the new chef. I’m lucky that the staff embraced me as I embraced them. I had a speech that probably came out completely different than what I had envisioned, but I do remember telling everybody that it was time to get to work, which is exactly what we’ve been doing ever since!
What’s your favorite Chops Boca memory?
That’s hard to say! We have a lot of fun here and we’ve had so many great memories that seem to just keep coming.
What’s the best thing about your job?
Every part of it. The fact that I get to wake up everyday and do what I love more than anything as a career is indescribable. I have the opportunity to make other people’s lives better w/ my passion for cooking. Words can’t describe.
What’s your proudest accomplishment at Chops Boca?
I think when you stop and take too much time to recognize accomplishments it puts an emphasis on a stopping point. Yes; we have accomplished a lot and I’m very proud of the work we have done, but I feel like Buckhead Life and Chops Lobster Bar is just getting started. Through our hard work and attention to detail, sky’s the limit.
Any notable celebrity sightings?
It’s a tie between Adam Sandler and Anthony Rizzo.
Marcell Keys talks Florida’s Most Iconic Cocktails, His Approach to Mixology, and How to Get the Bartender’s Attention Every Time.
Marcell Keys isn’t your average beverage manager. In fact, nothing about Marcell Keys’ rise to become Chops’ Beverage Manager is normal. While Marcell has been at Chops since the day it opened, he first worked as a server before being promoted to Manager, then Beverage Manager, and eventually found his passion studying wine and becoming the newest member of the Guild of Sommeliers.
Walk into Chops on any given day between the hours of 5:00 and 7:00 and you’ll find one of the busiest happy hours in town. Sure, there are $8 martinis and a tempting array of appetizers, but perhaps the real key to a buzzing bar is the creativity of the people who work behind it.
Being a bar manager isn’t just about mixing fantastic cocktails. For Chops, a restaurant concept already thriving in Atlanta, the challenge was to curate a menu that fit with Boca Raton’s culture.
“It was important to realize Boca Raton is a “martini-centric” type of city”, Marcell explains. He began to work within this idea and take a strong mixology approach to curating the menu. Chops takes advantage of the fresh fruits that are abundant in South Florida and he says it has made all the difference. Marcell’s style of mixology starts with the fresh fruit and juice and then the alcohol is added.
When asked what the “magic” behind Chops’ successful bar, Marcell explains that “Chops’ bar separates itself by bolstering an environment that is both expressively traditional and uniquely hip.”. Beyond the actual atmosphere of the restaurant, we see this on the specialty cocktail menu itself. With options like the “Perfect Negroni Martini” and the “Platinum Mule”, it’s clear that Chops favors traditional American steakhouse libations, but is determined to deliver something fresh and unique.
And the drinks you’ve sipped on at Chops? Marcell probably named them. The more outrageous the name, the better according to Marcell. “ The fun starts with the name”, Marcell says, and he’s onto something as “The Gold Digger Martini” is easily their most ordered martini.
In the case of most great bars, Chops is constantly busy. While Chops has a longstanding reputation for being a haunt for Boca’s most glamourous, Marcell points out that the long bar and lounge seating in the restaurant are 100% first-come-first-served. Macell’s tips for getting the bartender’s attention every time? “ The two best ways takes us all back to when times were much more simple. Either politely, without yelling, raise your hand (as if ready to answer a teacher’s question in class) or wait to catch the bartender’s eye and smile (as if you had a secret to tell…lean in and give your order).”