Two days before the opening of 1500º at the Eden Roc, chef Paula DaSilva and her crew were feverishly prepping a dozen hors d'oeuvres for a Friends of the South Beach Wine & Food Festival event. Her custom broiler still hadn't arrived, and her sous chef, Ben Walanka (a former castmate from Hell's Kitchen), had sliced his hand and was sporting a cast. It's her first restaurant as executive chef.
Even before the opening, DaSilva has been responsible for feeding hotel guests and hungry bar patrons three meals a day. Can you say, "Pressure"? Yet oddly enough, she appeared cool, collected, and sweat-free. Maybe her frequent interactions with Gordon Ramsey taught her to stay mellow.
Nope. The reason this Brazilian beauty seemed so in control was that, frankly, she has become used to functioning and excelling in this type of environment. She worked under Dean Max for nearly a decade at 3030 Ocean in Fort Lauderdale. For half that time, he was out and about opening new spots and growing his brand. This, obviously, meant she was left in charge.
This week, she showed us what we can expect from her at 1500º. Her new staff seemed rapt with attention as she walked them through recipes ranging from pork belly with kim chee to head cheese and hickory-smoked octopus, some of which she promised we'd see on the new menu (more about that next week). Here's what else Chef DaSilva has in store for Miami's eaters:
New Times: Were you ready to walk out on 3030 Ocean?
Paula DaSilva: I spent a long ten years there. I did everything I could possibly do. I loved every minute of it. I was sad to leave. Dean started venturing out. I got, like, a good five years out of Dean. I was thinking of going out on my own, having my own concept and all that. Just me being with the company for so long... I've been with them 12 years and they've taken good care of me. They did their best to keep me here [under the Marriott umbrella].
When did you throw your hat in the ring?
They found me. The director of food and beverage and the general manager of the property and I had crossed paths at Harbor Beach. The thing for me was I never wanted to leave South Florida. I got so rooted here and so comfortable. My family's here.
Was 1500º's farm-to-table/steak-house concept yours?
Prior to hiring me, during my interview process, they had already determined what the concept was going to be.
What was in this space before?
The concept before was Gia. It was an Italian restaurant. It opened two years ago. I've been onboard here for six months now. When I came in, I took over that outlet.
What have you been able to source locally?
I'm really trying my best to support locally as much as possible, sustainable as much as I can. There's going to be times when I have to get away from Florida and shop someplace else.
So when you say "local," you mean Florida?
Yeah. I've been able to find lots of local stuff: grass-fed beef from local farms; cheese; Hani in Homestead; I found a local guy who is making my burrata... in Pompano; Paradise Farms...; produce from Swank Farms in Loxahatchee... I've used Swank since I was at 3030.
Love those folks at Swank!
They're awesome. They're in the process of growing all that stuff for me right now, and they're going to bring it down in another week or so and plant it. They're going to be doing my garden out there. It's the first time they're gonna garden somewhere else. They're going to maintain it. [Editor's note: A garden just outside the restaurant, near the pool area, will grow tomatoes, eggplant, herbs, and greens.]
What are the downsides to local sourcing?
The delivery. Some of these smaller guys, they don't deliver every day. I have to get really smart ordering just what I need to get me through.
What product is challenging to find?
I'm working on finding a local chicken farm.
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How often are you going to change your menu?
The menu will be printed in-house every day. It costs a little bit more money in paper and all that, but it really gives you the ability to make everything superfresh. If something comes in and it's not good, I don't have to worry about eighty-sixing it. And it gives me freedom to be creative. If I get bored or something, I take it off. But not everything is not going to change daily. A good handful of items will go off and come on: new cuts of steak, different seafood that's available...
Check back next week to read why she is convinced Miami Beach could use another steak house (really?), how she plans to keep prices down, why it's better to be a chick in the kitchen, and if her television gig was really hellish.