Chef Paula DaSilva Carves Out Her Niche at 1500°

Part two of our interview with Chef Paula DaSilva at the new 1500º can be read below. Read part one here.

New Times: Are your prices at 1500º going to reflect the additional costs of sourcing?

Paula DaSilva: We want to drive the prices down because we don't want to be competing with South Beach. I really want to bring the locals in. You can't do that with super expensive dishes. There are so many ways I can use products here with it being breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

What are the most expensive products for you?

The meat products, for sure. As a chef, you want to have your nice Porterhouses and all that. It costs me a lot of money. I eat a lot of costs on that. Same with stone crab claws. You have it because the guests want it. We make it up on something else. Ceviche costs us almost nothing.

There's no exposed kitchen, so will star-stalking guests get see you wandering around the dining room?

I'm naturally shy, but I'm getting better. I do come out and greet people. It's important to do it. But I don't like going up to every single table because sometimes people don't really care who the chef is.

But you're a celebrity!

It's amazing to me, how even after all this time the show has been over, people still tell me they wish I won. I'm like, it's okay. It's cool. [Laughs]

How bad was that whole reality TV experience?

I was always myself. They tried to shake me up but, unless there's really a reason to get angry, I'm a pretty mellow person. But I can go from zero to 60 very quickly. In this industry there's always stress and pressure. But on that show you have zero control of your day, of your life. That, on top of the physical stress of sleeping two, three hours and not eating right, no contact with your family and friends... I've never been through anything as difficult as that. And I hope I never have to again. What I learned is how much tolerance I have. How much mental and physical pain I can put up with.

What's Gordon Ramsay really like?

He is that way--he's a super intense guy. He's like a teddy bear, too. He has an insane amount of energy. I didn't have a problem with him. 

How did that experience prep you for 1500º?

I am not sure it did. My parents have always had restaurants. It's in my blood.

What were your thoughts when you heard they wanted to do another steakhouse in Miami?

I was, like, really? There's a steakhouse right next door in the Fontainebleau. But the more I got to learning about the concept--we didn't want to go with the traditional steakhouse thing--we wanted to go with really homely, farm-to-table, still staying trendy and chic but not do the South Beach scene. We want to do our own, unique thing.

As far as doing the menu and the food it was 100 percent up to me. I wasn't too nervous. There's still a lot of composed dishes, too, which still let's me show my creative side. But then there will be some really refined dishes, too.

Did you eat around to the other steakhouses?

I had done Gotham before. I did Forge before. I've dined so many places. There's a lot of great restaurants here. I'm discovering more, too.

What is the advantage to being a female head chef?

I don't know that I've ever thought of that. Especially in the kitchen and with staff, I bring a lot of the craziness and I can get a little nutty at times, but then I also bring that loving side, too. I'm a very warm person and I actually care about people who work for me. I want to know about their lives and their families. I have that emotional side that I want to bring to the restaurant and the food.

Think that will be reflected in the food?

I can have the rustic kind of touch, you know, more manly. But I also have the delicate pieces. I think great chefs--even men--have to have that feminine side.

People ask me what's difficult about being a female chef, do you have a harder time than a man would. I've never been a man don't know what's it's like to be a man.

That's important to point out.

Yeah. I don't know that I've had difficulty. There's always challenges but they've never phased me.

Tell me about your desserts and pastry chef. We haven't heard much about either.

Jenny [Rissone] used to be the pastry chef over at the Harbor Beach Marriott for many years and was the pastry chef here at the Eden Roc for a couple of years, and then she decided to branch out on her own consulting. I brought her on board. I told her I wanted to do some traditional things, like the chocolate cakes. We want to identify two or three desserts that are kind of signature desserts. We came up with an espresso crème brulee, as well, and bread pudding. The other three desserts will be changing seasonally. We're doing a goat cheese cheesecake. She's working on a poached pear dessert. And all of our ice creams will be homemade and fresh and turned every day, as well as our sorbets. There's a great apple crisp that's deep fried with dulce de leche... That probably has to be my favorite.

Any hidden talents people don't know about you?

I can make a fish face.

Can I get a photo of that?

No! [Laughs]

Check in tomorrow for her white water clams, chorizo, and aji amarillo broth recipe.

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Riki Altman