Paul Menta is the owner of the first legal rum distillery in Key West. Professional chef and avid kite boarder; Paul is passionate about his home and his unique profession. A typical ‘Key West character’, so we’re told, we were lucky enough to grab a few moments of Paul’s time to gain a local’s insight.
How long have you lived in the Keys and what would you say is your favorite thing about these islands?
I have been in Key West since the late 1980’s, and choosing a favorite thing about the islands is incredibly hard. I suppose nothing quite beats getting in the ocean at the end of the day and being amazed at the colors of the sunset. These precious moments each evening provide brilliant backdrops of color and light to the island and its people. The addiction to these beautiful sunsets draws me to the waterfront night after night to witness and to celebrate.
As well as owning the first legal rum distillery, you’re also a professional chef – can you say anything about how these two professions/jobs overlap?
The concept of Chef Distilled revolves around the idea of me being a Chef first and a Distiller second. Distilling’s roots comes from cooking, so my passion for both allows me to use all the local ingredients to make something truly ‘Key West’. I’m able to incorporate my skills as a chef and a distiller to make something that tastes good without having to endure a hangover. I don’t have stringent rules that I follow, I just know I’m onto something because it tastes good. It’s a natural process.
The Keys offers a variety of water activities for locals and tourists alike, we know you’re a keen kite-boarder, so what’s so great about being out there on the waves?
I traveled around the world twice for kiteboarding, and where was my favorite spot during the winter? Key West! Why, you ask? Because of the shallow warm waters, the enviable wind and the miles of open beauty within a marine sanctuary.
The Florida Keys seems to have a really distinct sense of identity – how would you describe the atmosphere and culture of the ‘American Caribbean’?
We are a passionate culture with a huge pride in our heritage. We have a history that tells stories of survival, industry, rum running and sourcing local food like no other. It’s warm in the winter and that trumps every state in the USA. What’s more, we’re very welcoming and we invite everyone to just come as you are.
We’re looking to have the best lunch in town, what direction would you point us in?
The Stoned Crab at Ibis Bay. Sit on the water and watch your lunch brought in by local fisherman and have it cooked to order.
It’s a typically lovely Florida Keys day; what’ should be our beverage of choice?
Large glass of shaved ice , Key West Legal Rum, two key limes, Florida cane sugar and a splash of humidity. Mix it up, let the ice slowly melt enjoy the show!