Paul Menta is the Executive Chef at The Stoned Crab, but to say that Paul is just a Chef is a gross misrepresentation. It’s not easy to define Paul, or to put him in one professional bucket.
Paul arrived in Key West over thirty years ago, after graduating from culinary school in Philadelphia and traveling throughout much of Europe and Latin America to hone his cooking skills and philosophy. However, as this funky, quirky, and proudly weird island does to most who visit, Key West changed Paul. Or, more so, it allowed him to become who he was meant to be.
Since his childhood vacations to the Jersey Shore, Paul has always found solace, peace, and freedom in the vastness of open ocean. The expansiveness and endlessness of it offered him respite from the claustrophobia he felt on the streets of inner-city Philadelphia, where he spent the first eighteen years of his life. Paul’s friends and family were not surprised to see that the beast that was quickly unleashed upon his arrival to the water world that is Key West.
Paul arrived in Key West as a budding chef with an honest style. He had an unwavering commitment to fresh and sustainable, with a promising future. Yet, he quickly evolved into so much more. The ocean provided his culinary curiosity with a landscape to run wild.
Paul attributes time spent in Latin America, just prior to arriving in Key West, as being his most culinarily transformative. Living with host families, he learned from town elders the importance of going direct-to-source to best understand ingredients and build dishes – be they local fishermen, farmers, or even grandmas with centuries-old family recipes.
This philosophy was put into motion upon Paul’s arrival to Key West. Yet, he didn’t just find the source, he often became it. He began commercial spearfishing to better understand the species local to his new home, that would become staples of his menus; he co-founded Three Hands Fish, a sustainable seafood market, to ensure that his restaurant, in addition to all other island restaurants and community members, always had access to fresh, local seafood; and he founded Key West Legal Rum, the first and only distillery in Key West, to both better understand the distillation process and to provide the island and its restaurants with locally-made rum.
In between owning and running various restaurants – most recently The Stoned Crab – commercial fishing, and launching and managing Three Hands Fish and Key West Legal Rum, Paul also found time to develop into a professional kiteboarder, become the owner of two Guinness World Records, and write a cookbook.
Upon first glance, Paul’s life appears as pure chaos, but anyone who knows him will tell you otherwise. There’s order and structure to everything he does and all that he’s accomplished. For him, these aren’t disparate jobs that he bounces between, but rather a unified lifestyle centered around the ocean, and the curiosity to always know more, understand better, and to improve on the existing.
In many ways, The Stoned Crab is the tangible and physical representation of all that is Paul’s lifestyle. It’s where his experience cooking, commercial fishing, seafood sourcing, and rum distilling all come together on a nightly basis to serve Key West its freshest, funkiest, and most flavorful cocktails and seafood dishes.