Interview With PB Catch Chef de Cuisine Aaron Black of Palm Beach | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

Ask the Chef

PB Catch's Aaron Black Was a Mechanical Engineer Before the Entering the Kitchen

Not many people know PB Catch chef de cuisine Aaron Black was at one time a mechanical engineer. A few years into his career, lacking a creative push, Black decided to enroll at the Florida Culinary Institute to follow his real passion: cooking. 

Today, the chef is best-known for leading the creative charge at the Palm Beach seafood-centric eatery, one that has become well-known for its expansive raw bar and menu of shareable-size small plates that change daily.

"For young chefs, never look past the station you are working."

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Here, you'll find the chef's engineering background isn't just a part of his past; instead, it's made him a better cook. Black's studies are what helped to inspire his unique "seacuterie," a cured seafood platter with offerings that change according to the seasons' best catch and are prepared using a variety of innovative techniques, each meant to mimic the presentation and flavors you'd find with traditional charcuterie.

As always, Black's real focus continues to be offering both local and sustainable seafood, making PB Catch a launchpad for diners willing to experiment with new and relatively unknown fish. In other words, Black is helping to change the way people eat (and view) safe seafood, one fish dish at a time.
Full name: Aaron Black, PB Catch chef de cuisine
Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

New Times: What inspired you to begin cooking professionally?
I've always loved cooking. The creative outlet is why I finally decided to pursue it professionally.

What’s the first important meal or dish you remember making?
The first dish I remember cooking myself, without help, was beef jerky for my camping trip. I was nine years old.

What’s your favorite restaurant in South Florida (besides yours, of course)?
My favorite place to hang out on my days off is Square Grouper in Jupiter.

What’s your favorite dish on your menu right now?
I'd have to say the Mediterranean tuna. It's very clean, with good texture. It's also a simple dish, although it has depth [of flavor].

Do you have a favorite dish at another restaurant?
I'd have to say the sweetbreads at Pistache French Bistro [in West Palm Beach], because they are always cooked just right. I always love the crab cakes at Jetty's Waterfront Restaurant [in Jupiter].

What’s the weirdest request you’ve ever gotten from a customer?
Our servers are really good at making sure the crazy stuff never gets to me.

What do you cook for yourself or your family when there’s no one to impress?
When I am at home I like to take my time and cook things slowly over charcoal.

What do you feel is lacking from the South Florida food scene?
The young professional set is missing from South Florida. And I'd like to see more inspired, middle-priced, small plate, casual venues.

Name one kitchen tool you could not live without.
Waterstone for the whole kitchen. Dull knives make nasty cuts.

Any advice for up and coming chefs trying to break into the biz?
For young chefs, never look past the station you are working. If your station is organized, backed up, labeled, and you work it flawlessly, you will be given more responsibility.

PB Catch is located at 251 Sunrise Ave., Palm Beach. Call 561-655-5558, or visit
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna