This week’s Chef in the Spotlight shines on the quietly talented Paula DaSilva, Executive Chef of 1500° a stylish farm-to-table eatery located within the Eden Roc Resort Miami Beach. Restaurants are a family business and a way of life for the DaSilva’s; Paula’s first taste of hands-on hospitality experience came from her family’s restaurant in New England, eventually moving to South Florida Paula and family then opened two restaurants where she learned the many aspects of running an entire food and beverage operation. A graduate of the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale and a protégée of Dean James Max, DaSilva was his Chef de Cuisine at 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale. Through Max’s coaching, philosophy and guidance it was here that DaSilva developed and secured her reputation as one of South Florida’s future culinary stars. Flourishing under the eagle-like wing of Dean Max, Paula appeared on season five of the FOX reality cooking show Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay. She was spared time and time again from Ramsay’s wrath by virtue of her talent, dedication, passion, and lack of drama and attitude. Bestowed with numerous awards and recognitions for her culinary talents over the years it is most recently that the recognition itself has up the ante with DaSilva receiving the 2012 nomination nod for James Beard’s Best Chef of the South and 1500° was named one of The Best New Restaurants of 2011 by Esquire magazine in its annual November restaurant feature by famed food and wine author John Mariani. I present this week’s Chef in the Spotlight, the talented Paula DaSilva.
South Florida Food and Wine: Where do you get your culinary inspiration?
Paula DaSilva: My culinary inspiration is derived from many years that I spent helping my parents in their restaurant while I was growing up – slowly, I began to develop a love for the food, and for the adrenaline rush of a busy restaurant.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your favorite item to make on the 15000 menu?
Paula DaSilva: It really varies and depends on the season. Since we change our menus frequently, choosing one dish is always hard – but if I had to choose one right now, it would be our Paella.
South Florida Food and Wine: As a protégée of Dean Max, what is the one memorable lesson he taught you that you carry with you daily?
Paula DaSilva: One of the first things I learned from Dean is the importance of using good ingredients, produce and products, and what a difference it makes in your food.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one go-to ingredient and why?
Paula DaSilva: Salt. When something is bland, more than likely it just needs a little more salt to make it ’pop’. Sometimes people are very scared of salt, but it’s one of the most important ingredients in the kitchen and without it, food would be very boring! Don’t be afraid to add some to your ice cream, too!
South Florida Food and Wine: What is the most challenging thing about your position as Executive Chef at 15000?
Paula DaSilva: I would have to say that it has been hiring experienced cooks from the area. Being on the beach poses more of a challenge for parking,etc, and the constant training is very challenging. We have been fortunate enough to have some of our team members that have been with us from opening, and we also work a lot of young cooks from abroad that want to come here for one year on a special visa.
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would your final meal be?
Paula DaSilva: Rice, beans, roasted chicken and (must have) cholula.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you would like to cook with and why?
Paula DaSilva: Eric Ripert, although I would probably be very nervous. I think he is an amazing chef with some really great old school French techniques that I really enjoy.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one most proud professional moment at 15000?
Paula DaSilva: I would have to say would be being listed by Esquire’s “Best New Restaurants” of 2011.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one guilty pleasure food?
Paula DaSilva: Ice Cream
South Florida Food and Wine: What was the last restaurant you ate at, other than 15000 and what did you order?
Paula DaSilva: It was a small Indian restaurant in Coral Springs called “Chutney and Pickle” and I ordered the chicken tandoori. I dine out a lot and most often with two or three other friends, so we each order a few things and share it all. It’s the best way to try a bunch of stuff on the menu.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who would you most like to cook for? And why?
Paula DaSilva: My Grandmother. She had a little farm when I was growing up, with vegetables and animals and always did the cooking for us. She spent some time helping in my parent’s restaurant as well, and I never got a chance to cook for her. I think she would have enjoyed some of my food!
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your day off, what do you do for fun?
Paula DaSilva: I like to get my exercise out of the way asap, then hang out at the pool or beach, stop by and say hello to my siblings, grab an early dinner and drinks with friends, watch TV and relax!
1500 Degrees at Eden Roc Resort 4525 Collins Avenue Miami Beach, FL 33140
Click here to read about our recent dinner at 1500°
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