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Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg

Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg

Story by Ron Bukley

Photos by Abner Pedraza (?)

After three and a half years on the job, Palm Beach County State Attorney Dave Aronberg is proud of the successes he has achieved.

“When I ran for this office, I was concerned about the low conviction rates,” said Aronberg, who previously represented the western communities as a state senator. “This office had the lowest conviction rate in Florida among state attorney offices. Out of 20 offices, we were ranked 20th. Our conviction rate in county court was around 52 percent and, in felony court, it was in the 70s. Now, I’m pleased to say, our county court conviction rate is 85 percent, and for felonies, it’s 92 percent.”

That puts Palm Beach County eighth out of the 20 state attorney offices in overall conviction rates.

“At the same time, the direct-file numbers have gone down. That refers to the number of juvenile cases being tried as adults,” he said. “We continue to take violent crime very seriously, whether it’s committed by adults or juveniles, but when it’s a nonviolent juvenile who would be better served in the juvenile system, but is thrown into an adult court, we have done a better job of treating them with the right proportionality.”

Aronberg added that his staff has gotten quicker in their prosecutions as well, noting that when he took over, it took an average of 123 days for a case to go from filing to final deposition. “Today, it takes 88 days,” he said. “Justice delayed is justice denied, so we’ve done a better job of creating efficiency in the criminal court system.”

The office has reverted from the federal model put in place by former State Attorney Michael McAuliffe, to a horizontal system that had been in place under McAuliffe’s predecessor, longtime State Attorney Barry Krischer.

Aronberg brought Krischer in as an adviser, and also brought back several key leaders from the Krischer administration, such as Chief Assistant State Attorney Alan Johnson, a longtime Wellington resident, and Mike Edmondson, Krischer’s former executive assistant who now serves that role for Aronberg, and Craig Williams, who leads the felony division.

“We brought back some really strong prosecutors with experience, and I think one reason we had an increase in our conviction rates is that Al Johnson, along with [Assistant State Attorney] Sherri Collins, created an emphasis on teaching and continual training to make sure that the prosecutors are at the top of their game,” Aronberg said.

He credits interim State Attorney Peter Antonacci, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott in 2012 to fill out final few months of McAuliffe’s term, with changing the way charges are filed to a committee system. Antonacci is now executive director of the South Florida Water Management District.

“When Pete came in, he immediately saw the problem with the filing process,” Aronberg said. “I continued what he started on that.”

Aronberg explained that Krischer had a horizontal intake system in which felony charges were decided by a committee of experienced prosecutors, rather than a vertical model used by the federal system where the same prosecutor takes a case through the entire process.

“The problem with that model is it really doesn’t work at a state level because at the federal level you have many fewer cases,” he said. “Here, we had 126,000 cases last year, so it’s impossible to have that system work.”

The office now has a committee of experienced prosecutors that decides how to charge defendants. “That’s a unique specialty, and you want to have the right people doing it, because the consequences of getting it wrong are enormous,” Aronberg said.

As a constitutionally elected officer, Aronberg is on the equal footing with the other countywide officers, including Sheriff Ric Bradshaw. A good working relationship with Bradshaw and his office is essential, but Aronberg noted that there are occasional differences of opinion.

“We are all human beings, and so you’re always going to have disagreements along the way, but we have an excellent professional relationship,” he said. “The community expects its law enforcement agencies to work together to keep our streets safe.”

As a directly elected representative, Aronberg answers only to the voters. “My only boss is the people of Palm Beach County,” he said.

Of specific interest to the western communities, Aronberg has put more of a focus on animal cruelty cases. It has been shown that animal cruelty often escalates to human cruelty, and that’s one reason Aronberg has strong feelings about the issue.

“We’ve made animal cruelty a priority in this office, and in fact, my first case that I tried myself as state attorney was a felony animal cruelty case,” he said. “We got a conviction in that case, and I want to send a message that cruelty to animals will not be tolerated in Palm Beach County.”

A recent animal slaughter case in Loxahatchee Groves has drawn one conviction, while some defendants agreed to a negotiated settlement. Some of the cases are still pending, which limits what Aronberg can say on the issue.

“One of the frustrating things… is that because we cannot discuss pending cases, [people] send me nasty e-mails saying, ‘Hey, how dare you drop this case.’ I can’t respond to it even if the allegation is completely untrue,” Aronberg said.

He has also continued his work from prior to his election as state attorney to shut down illegal pill mill operations. He worked on that issue with Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.

“I was proud of our work to shut the pill mills, and it was a team effort,” he said. “We couldn’t do it alone, it had to be a bipartisan, total commitment from many different agencies and individuals to shut down the pill mills that contributed to seven deaths a day here in Florida.”

Aronberg’s current staff of 400-plus handle more than 126,000 cases annually, from driving with a suspended license (DUS), all the way to high-profile murder trials.

“By far, the most common charge we have in this office is DUS,” he said. “That also includes driving without a license, so that whole [area is] something we’re working with the public defender on, trying to create some kind of system where we can more efficiently dispense with these issues.”

Aronberg said he is trying to get funds to establish a DUS diversion program.

“We’re going to continue to find ways where we can more efficiently handle this enormous amount of cases that have come in,” he said. “In fact, a third of all our misdemeanors is DUS, which is around 33,000 cases a year.”

He also is an advocate for victims’ rights, which he believes is not addressed sufficiently, and why his office has shown solidarity with National Crime Victims’ Rights Week, observed every April.

“There is no one in the criminal justice system to speak up for them except for us,” Aronberg said. “Part of our job is to stand up for victims. Victims are not mentioned anywhere in the United States Constitution, although the U.S. Constitution protects the rights of defendants and suspects in the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, the Sixth Amendment and the Eighth Amendment.”

However, victims are mentioned in the Florida Constitution, which gives them more rights here than in other states. “It’s incumbent upon us to speak up for victims when otherwise they may not have any voice in our criminal justice system,” Aronberg said.

Aronberg will celebrate his first anniversary with wife Lynn this month. They live with their basset hound Cookie, adopted four years ago from Big Dog Ranch Rescue.

“I was so grateful for being able to serve in the state senate for eight years. I loved the job,” Aronberg said. “This job is very different. It’s apples and oranges, because this job has a lot more responsibility. In my senate role, I was 1/40th of one half of one of three branches of government. Here I’m one of one, and my only boss is the people of Palm Beach County. Our decisions have great weight to them, because it’s the ultimate power of government to deprive someone of their freedom.”

He strives to use that power with humility. “When you get it wrong, you can destroy someone’s life in the process,” Aronberg said.

Currently, Aronberg does not face a challenger in his bid for re-election later this year, but there’s still some time before filing closes.

“I don’t want to be presumptuous to assume that I will be re-elected,” he said. “It’s up to the people to make that decision, but I love this job. It’s like an ongoing job interview. I have to keep proving myself every day.”


Meet Wellington’s Three Counsel On The Council

Meet Wellington’s Three Counsel On The Council

Trio Of Attorneys Now Represent Wellington Residents On The Dais

Story by Julie Unger

Photos by Abner Pedraza (?)

The Wellington Village Council has included lawyers before, but one of the striking differences about the new council seated after the March election is that three members — a majority — are attorneys. Councilmen John McGovern, Michael Drahos and Michael Napoleone are the counsel on the council.

McGovern is a trial lawyer, or litigator, who represents people injured by the negligence of someone else, be it an individual or a corporation.

He earned his law degree at the University of Florida in 1999 and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 2000. McGovern is a managing partner at McGovern Gerardi Law P.A., while balancing life as husband to wife Michelle and father to daughters Emilia, 10, and Victoria, 8.

McGovern anticipates more brief, succinct council meetings in the coming years with three lawyers sitting on the dais. He believes that it will provide a benefit to residents to have three individuals, who just happen to be lawyers, working for the good of one client — the community of Wellington.

“Wellington has a village attorney,” McGovern said. “Another challenge of having three lawyers on the council is we are not Wellington’s lawyer. We are not here practicing law. That’s not our job, and that’s one of the things, since being appointed a year ago, that I’ve worked very hard on.”

He is always quick to remember his role on the dais. “In dealing with the village attorney, I’m the client, not the lawyer,” he said.

The job of the council, McGovern explained, is to safeguard what is best for the future of Wellington and its residents.

As a father, McGovern explained that striving to do the right things for the right reasons becomes even more important as his daughters learn more about his occupation and position on the council. “There’s nothing harder than trying to explain a decision at the dinner table at your own house,” he said.

But he can’t imagine doing anything else, given his healthy respect and curiosity about the law.

“Through the law, even the largest of problems can be resolved in a fair and equitable way, such that an individual, a community, a neighborhood, can get a result though an orderly process, and I think that’s what the law is,” McGovern said. “It’s a way to solve problems.”

Drahos found law to be his calling when he was in eighth grade and saw the movie A Few Good Men.

“There was something about that movie, and the dramatic nature of courtroom cases and watching them unfold, I was drawn to that immediately,” he said. “Ever since I was young, it’s a profession that I found to be admirable and one that could do a lot of good in people’s lives. I’ve found it to be exactly as I expected, which is rare. I consider myself really fortunate.”

Drahos specializes in civil defense, where he defends corporations and other clients in large-exposure personal injury cases, focusing mostly on maritime medical malpractice, as well as liability.

“Any type of product, from roller coasters to bicycles to basketball hoops to automotive component parts to agricultural parts, I handle them all,” he said.

Drahos graduated from Florida State University in 1999 with an English degree before attending Nova Southeastern University for law school, graduating in 2002. He has spent his entire legal career with Fowler White Burnett P.A.

He predicts that council meetings will flow more efficiently with a more professional tone.

“We, as lawyers, are trained to be adversarial on behalf of our clients, but most good lawyers are able to know, when the job is over, you don’t take it outside of the courtroom,” Drahos said. “I believe this will translate well into this council, because we are inevitably going to have debate up there over what we feel is best for Wellington, but when that debate is over, we’ll be able to move on to the next issue without carrying baggage. That is exactly what Wellington needs.”

He believes that having the three lawyers on the council will help to ensure that decisions are carefully thought through. “You don’t need to be a lawyer to know when a good deal is good and when a bad deal is bad,” Drahos said.

Lawyers tend to look at things differently because of their experiences, he said.

“We’re trained to think two, three, four, five steps ahead,” Drahos said. “I think the decisions that we’ll make… will be beneficial today, but also calculated to be beneficial tomorrow and into the future, because that’s the way we’re trained to think.”

For Drahos, working to better Wellington includes safeguarding his family, including his wife, Nathalie, and daughters Julia, 8, and Sophia, 6.

“I want to make them proud,” he said. “Julia has really taken this in, and I think has an appreciation for what I’m doing and why I’m doing it, and that makes me extremely proud.”

As an attorney, Drahos is honored to serve on the council.

“The legal profession and public service has always been sort of a natural fit,” he said. “I don’t find it surprising that there are three of us now on this council, but what I do expect is that we are going to honor our profession and our community in a way that is going to make everybody proud.”

Napoleone works at Richman Greer P.A. representing corporations and individuals in the field of business and contract negotiation. He attended the University of Florida, studying criminology and psychology, before attending law school at St. John’s University in New York.

The legal field appealed to Napoleone, who enjoys the intellectual challenge of solving a problem. He believes that having three lawyers on the council is an advantage.

“Our training is designed to teach us to analyze an issue from all sides and ask the right questions to get the information you need to make a decision,” he said. “From that standpoint, I think it’s a benefit, because you have people who have a day-to-day job that is to probe into an issue and ask good questions… and that’s really what the council’s job is.”

Letting staff do its job, and bringing in experts regarding fields where the council members themselves are not experts, is important. That will allow the experts to do what needs to be done to run the village, Napoleone said.

“I’m hoping that we can disagree without being disagreeable,” he said. “We do different things, but we generally are in court a lot. When you do that, you learn that you can’t take things personally. You can’t personalize your client’s issue… When I’m in court with another lawyer and we’re arguing before the judge, it’s never personal.”

Going out for coffee or lunch after a session in court isn’t uncommon, he said.

“We don’t personalize and carry that argument over to our actual lives, and I think that’s what you have to do on the council,” Napoleone said. You can’t make everything personal. It’s not one councilperson versus another. We may disagree on an issue, but we must respect that person’s point of view. Disagreements and arguments and having good debate are all good things, as long as you can recognize at the end of the day that we’re all in this together.”

Napoleone has worked on numerous boards in the past and has noticed that lawyers have a tendency to ask more questions in the path of making a decision, and do well with the additional reading necessary as a council member, since they already read tremendous amounts of material as counselors. “We’re prepared to be prepared,” he said.

Napoleone’s family has been supportive and eager to learn about his new position. Wife Cyndi and sons Christopher, 10, and Luca, 2, like the idea that he’s working to make a difference in Wellington.


Testifying Made Simple Prepares Witnesses For Trial

Testifying Made Simple Prepares Witnesses For Trial

By Julie Unger

Attorney Michelle Santamaria used her criminal prosecutor experience to create her successful company, Testifying Made Simple. “That’s where I found my niche. It’s a system that I’ve worked in personally,” she explained. “I’m passionate about trials in the criminal system, and I’ve focused on that audience.”

Her name might seem familiar. She has worked for television news stations, the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office and even run for the Palm Beach County Commission seat previously held by her father, Jess Santamaria.

Santamaria’s bring a long list of accomplishments to Testifying Made Simple, a company designed to help law enforcement witnesses. A quick glance at her résumé, and you might expect Santamaria to be much older than 39. Not only did earn a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida and a law degree from Stetson University, she earned an MBA from Rollins College and has studied at several other institutions, including Harvard Law School and Palm Beach Atlantic University.

Aside from her work with the Palm Beach County State Attorney’s Office, she has worked with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Training Force USA, the Florida Public Safety Institute, the Regional Organized Crime Information Center and more. She worked as an assistant state attorney in West Palm Beach and, in 2009, started Testifying Made Simple, which has trained witnesses from more than 100 law enforcement agencies, academies and organizations, including the FBI.

At Stetson, Santamaria was drawn to its top-rated trial advocacy program, she said, adding that their “competition program… really helped me prepare for what I do now, because it’s such a phenomenal program.”

Santamaria’s volunteer work has spanned many venues, including volunteering at Youth Court and American Heritage High School’s Mock Trial competition, emceeing for My Brother’s/Sister’s Keeper Scholarship Foundation and working with many other organizations.

“I’ve always been interested in public speaking, and trial advocacy is a great way to get in front of the people, get involved, and do something more active in the court system,” she said.

After graduating from law school, Santamaria became a criminal prosecutor. “I loved being involved in the court system and helping people, along with doing trials,” she said.

When working on trials, Santamaria noticed that witnesses sometimes have a difficult time expressing themselves. After each trial, she’d receive feedback from the witnesses and discuss what needed more work.

She often asked whether anyone helped to prepare witnesses and was told that there wasn’t such a program, but many people wished there was.

“I filed that in the back of my head,” she said. “After doing trials for many years, I decided to move on and created exactly the curriculum that I wished the witnesses knew.”

Testifying Made Simple is designed to explain exactly how the trial works and everybody’s role in it. “If they know what to expect ahead of time, they’re able to effectively communicate in court,” Santamaria said.

It helps law enforcement witnesses, specifically, but others as well.

“If you can spell everything out ahead of time, then a person, regardless if they’re law enforcement, or any type of witness, a medical doctor, an accountant, can effectively communicate,” she said. “You teach a law enforcement officer how to shoot a gun, how to collect evidence and how to write a report. But if you don’t teach them and prepare them for what to expect in court, the whole case can end. It really completes the circle on the criminal justice system.”

Positive feedback for Testifying Made Simple is the norm for Santamaria, who often hears about how well someone’s testifying has improved.

The company started in Palm Beach County, then expanded to Florida, and then across the country. Within just a few years, Santamaria was approached by the FBI due to their interest in her program. “I was really excited to have such a wonderful opportunity because the FBI is the gold standard,” she said.

Santamaria now has a dream job where she takes what she is passionate about and combines the components to give people the confidence to testify effectively.

“I love being able to help people, regardless if it is in one trial today or it’s throughout the course of their life,” she said. “It’s something that transcends criminal and civil law.”

As a result, she explained, being a witness is a more efficient and effective. When a witness is nervous, be it because of public speaking issues or lack of practice, Santamaria’s classes, seminars and program offer a way to speak more efficiently in a comfortable, confident manner.

Santamaria runs the class with high participation and interaction, and very little lecturing, to keep it exciting and interesting. After each class, she asks for feedback, seeking suggestions on what participants like and what does and doesn’t work.

“What I’ve had from the very beginning is positive feedback such as, ‘Best class I’ve had in 30 years of law enforcement,’” Santamaria said. “These individuals have taken many, many courses. To hear that, many times over from the beginning, makes me feel great. It makes me feel like I’m contributing and helping people out.”

To learn more about Testifying Made Simple, visit www.testifyingmadesimple.com.


Suri West Presents Its First Runway Fashion Show

Suri West Presents Its First Runway Fashion Show

Suri West held it first fashion show on March 10, 2016 and experienced tremendous support with over 300 guests in attendance.  To say it was a huge success would be an understatement.  The concept behind the scenes orchestrated by new owners, Maureen and John Pata, was a way to host a fashion show where local designers could showcase the hottest trends in fashion while guest enjoyed the updated and newly redesigned Suri West, formerly Coach House.  The unique idea behind this runway fashion show was that if patrons saw something they liked they could purchase it that night.

With local designers, Posche Boutique and Roxy Lulu, as well as hats by Designs by Rebecca, guests were sure to see something that caught their eye.  So after the show ended, they opened a beautiful tent and everyone was free to browse, touch, and take home some of the amazing looks they just saw on the runway.

The feedback from event guests was very positive as most fashion events are a look and a glance capturing the latest trends but not necessarily the ability to purchase what you see the same night.  With one of the guests, Amanda Pedraza, expressing to owner and event coordinator, Maureen Pata, “I loved it, I always hate going to a show and leaving empty handed”.  That was important to me said Pata, as I too always felt that was a missing element from runway fashion shows.

This was more than just one of those runway fashion shows; this was a party with DJ Supreme kicking off the night at 7:00pm.  Guests dined on the beautifully lit back patio where they choose from a special “fashion show menu” and a special drink of the evening “perfect martini” made with the “Perfect Vodka”, a proud sponsor of the fashion show. After dinner the guest made their way to sit stage side along the runway where they enjoyed 45 minutes of nonstop looks featuring the latest in fashions showcased on exquisite models who had the perfect hair and makeup touches to complement each look.   Edmond James Salon was responsible for creating all the fabulous hair styles on all the models seen throughout the show.  Makeup was done by Aronovich Polania of Arvada.

The MC of the event was Jules Guaglardi owner of Roxy LuLu, one of the first designers of the evening. They also featured Posche Boutique of Wellington. The beautiful hats seen on the models were from “Designs By Rebecca” and jewelry was from B+ {be positive} Jewelry co.  Owner and event coordinator, Maureen Pata thanked everyone for their support and a great turnout with a special thanks to the team at Suri West and much gratitude to Nicky Rogers Jimenez for all of her help and support with this event.

Suri West looks forward to more events like this in the future as a way to meet all of their returning customers and the new friendship they will make with new customers to the restaurant.

Owners, Matthew Barger and John and Maureen Pata, invite you to stop by Suri West, located at 13410 South Shore Blvd., in Wellington.  Open Monday through Sunday from 4:00pm to midnight.  For more information, visit www.surirestaurant.com or call (561) 795-0080.



Wellington Win Just The Start For Charlotte Ostrov

Wellington Win Just The Start For Charlotte Ostrov

2016 Wellington Idol Charlotte Ostrov Has Her Sights Set On Broadway

Story and Photos by Julie Unger

Until you’re standing next to her, it is easy to forget that 2016 Wellington Idol Charlotte Ostrov is just 14 years old. Her stage presence and personality are those of a seasoned performer.

As she finishes up eighth grade at the Bak Middle School of the Arts, her artistic adventures are only just beginning.

“I’ve been taking singing [lessons] for four years,” Ostrov said, noting that she has studied with Lynn Pernezny and Adriana Zabala.

Their teaching, along with Ostrov’s current training, have paid off. She wowed the judges when singing “I Dreamed A Dream” from Les Misérables in the recent Wellington Idol finals and was told to get an agent.

Like many, she would often sing in the car and shower — “badly, I was never good,” she said. Then, her father, Robert, introduced her to musical theater.

“I just fell in love with it,” Ostrov said. “I’ve been doing it ever since, and it’s still my goal to be on Broadway.”

Though that may be a steep climb, Ostrov seems to have a better shot than most.

“I want to be famous, and I have since I was a baby,” she said. “I wanted to be a director in Hollywood, but that was not for me.”

But Ostrov didn’t let that discourage her; she took a step back and refocused.

“As I started training, I said, ‘I want to be on Broadway. How do I get there?’ I started taking singing, acting and dancing lessons. I wasn’t that bad at it, so I started to pursue it from there, when I realized it was something I enjoyed, something I can do and something that is appreciated,” Ostrov said. “I also love going to the theater. It’s a great experience. It can be educational, uplifting and inspiring. The theater is a magical place.”

While she can’t pick her favorite show, Ostrov was able to come up her top five: Les Misérables, The Lion King, Hamilton, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Fiddler on the Roof.

Ostrov has had parts in many school productions, and also at the Wellington Children’s Theater. She has performed in Les Misérables, And The World Goes ’Round, Maids on Broadway, The Jungle Book, Cinderella and Annie.

When it came time to choose her song for the finals of Wellington Idol, a conversation with her mother, Kathleen, helped her pick.

Les Mis was the first legit musical I saw, and that’s what made me fall in love with theater. However, most pieces in Les Mis are really, really overdone. It wasn’t really something that I practice a lot,” Ostrov said. “I don’t sing Les Mis a lot anymore, but my mother loves ‘I Dreamed A Dream,’ and she loves the way I sing it.”

And with that, her winning song earned her this year’s Wellington Idol grand prize.

“Winning this competition, I am not kidding, is a dream come true for this girl,” her mother said. “This is what she wants to do. She wants to sing, she wants to perform. She was made to be up there performing.”

Ostrov, who will be singing at many official Wellington events during the next year, has already sung at Wellington’s 20th anniversary celebration and is looking forward to singing the national anthem at Memorial Day and Fourth of July observances.

For a local girl — Ostrov moved to Wellington from New York when she was 4 years old, attending Temple Beth Torah and the Little Place for preschool, then Wellington Elementary School and Bak — the Wellington Idol victory is a recognition that means a lot.

“I’m really grateful for the opportunities that they’re giving me,” she said. “I like to be involved in the community.”

As she advances in her career, Ostrov would like to try more professional theater, and wants to sing publicly as much as possible. She focuses on musical theater, is a soprano, and her voice can be described as operatic.

Any ceremony or event that needs a singer, Kathleen said, her daughter would be happy to lend her talents.

“Book me!” Ostrov interjected, as only an excited teenager could.

Friends and family are in her corner, cheering her on every step of the way.

“My family is so supportive, and my grandparents are my biggest fans. My grandmother screamed when I told her I won,” she said, also thanking her sister Hannah and friend Jakob Littell.

Kathleen is thrilled for her daughter’s early success.

“I’m very proud of her, and I think that whether it turns out that she has a life on the stage or not, it doesn’t matter because she’s fulfilling her dream right now. She’s succeeding at it,” she said.

When Ostrov isn’t practicing, she enjoys listening to music, learning about history and reading plays. “I’m reading The Crucible right now,” she said.

This summer, she is working on securing an internship, focusing on local government and an off-Broadway program in New York City.

In the late summer, on Aug. 30, the Ostrov family will also find out whether her father, a lawyer, is elected as a circuit court judge for Palm Beach County.

Either way, Ostrov is dreaming big, ready to conquer the world and Broadway. In April, she secured the next step: a spot in the freshmen class at the Dreyfoos School of the Arts.

“I’m going to keep singing, so you can expect to hear more from Charlotte Ostrov in the future if you live locally, and hopefully in other countries, you’ll hear about me, too,” she said.

To contact Charlotte Ostrov and inquire about bookings, visit www.twitter.com/charostrov or www.facebook.com/charlotte.ostrov.


May 2016 Wellington Table


Wellington Table

Signature Dish: Try The Paleo Bowl (Or Build Your Own Creation) At Bolay

Story and Photos by Julie Unger

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be boring, bland and tasteless. Curating a fast, fresh and bold way of eating, Bolay is an innovative build-you-own-bowl restaurant with creative, satisfying and nutritious offerings. They’re so good, you’ll forget it is good for you.

“What we have done is put the consumer in the driver’s seat,” explained Outback Steakhouse co-founder Tim Gannon, who created the Bolay concept with his son Chris. “He comes in and says, ‘Wow, look at all this food. Now, here’s how I want to put it together.’ Enabling a consumer in customization is critical, which gives us endless variety and creativity. We’ve taken it from the hands of the chef, creating something unbelievable, to the hands of the consumer, letting them create. That is the engaging part of this enterprise.”

The concept is simple. You choose the size bowl you want. Then, you choose your base, or bases. With options like a marinated kale and currant salad, Peruvian quinoa, forbidden black rice, aromatic basmati rice and gluten-free cilantro noodles, there are plenty of flavorful and delicious choices to set the theme.

Atop the base are unique vegetables, such as smoky cauliflower, paleo sprouts, maple-roasted butternut squash, balsamic mushrooms and broccoli with a ginger orange glaze. Following the vegetables are proteins such as sesame tofu, Ponzu tuna, barbeque chicken, lemon chicken, pork tenderloin and Caribbean spiced steak.

Adding another layer of flavor are the sauce offerings and additional add-ons. Spicy Thai sauce, cilantro pesto and carrot ginger sauce, along with minted tomatoes, goat cheese crumble, parmesan and an Asian herb mix help to create an endless array of possibilities.

Chef Martin Oswald, a former protégé of Wolfgang Puck, helped create the Paleo Bowl, and the Bolay team created the other two signature bowls, the Aspen Bowl and the Thai Bowl.

The Paleo Bowl features kale, a nutritional powerhouse, with quinoa, mushrooms, sprouts, barbeque chicken, Caribbean steak and a carrot ginger sauce.

Everything at Bolay is 100 percent gluten-free. The only dairy is in the cheese topping offered, and instead of sugar in their desserts, they use agave. The restaurant doesn’t use fryers and utilizes small amounts of coconut and olive oil for flavor.

Everything at Bolay is about putting together nutrition and flavor, Tim explained.

Chris, who won the U.S. Open Polo Championship at age 16 on Outback’s team, has studied trends, and realized that when people go out to eat there is an innate curiosity as to how others eat. With the trend of eating healthier, people want fresh, clean food quickly, he explained. “We’re trying to grab all of those things by being fresh, clean and quick,” Chris said.

The high-protein forbidden black rice, Chris explained, is seasoned with ginger, cilantro and kafir lime leaf. There’s a variety of flavor in every bite. “Our restaurant has 20 sauces that we make every day,” he said. “Each item has its own marinate and its own sauce, and with that comes incredible flavors.”

Tim is bringing what he learned about flavor at Outback to Bolay, without the heavy calories.

“Here, we want to bring all that flavor that you love at Outback, and we want to infuse it with healthy ingredients,” he explained. “We’re that place that you want to go in, eat great, have great flavor, but walk out and go hit the tennis court, ride horses or exercise. That’s how much energy you’ll have.”

Bolay opened in late February in the new Buckingham Plaza on State Road 7. It has already been active in the community. They were at the Wellington Chamber of Commerce’s ColorFest 5K and Nic Roldan’s Sunset Polo & White Party at the Wanderers Club benefitting Brooke USA, as well as other community functions.

“The beauty of this concept is that it has got endless possibilities for creativity and change,” Chris said. “We’re really going to listen to what the guests like. That’s the most important part — not what we think, but what the guest wants.”

To wash down the fresh bowls, be it cultivated or designed by the guest, Bolay offers cold-pressed juice, infused teas, and craft beer and wine.

Bolay isn’t trying to be a health food restaurant, Chris explained, but rather a restaurant with bold flavors and incredible food that just happens to be healthy and good for you.

Bolay is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. For more information, visit www.eatbolay.com or call (561) 899-0111.