The dining room at 1500° at the Eden Roc

  Paula DaSilva in the garden at the Eden Roc

The Eden Roc Renaissance Miami Beach has cut a classic figure on the Collins Avenue skyline since 1956, through the Rat Pack heyday and a recent resurrection. Today, the property’s gaining heat in lots of ways—namely its $220 million renovation and the addition of executive chef Paula DaSilva, who helms farm-to-table restaurant 1500°.

Growing up in South Florida, DaSilva’s childhood memories include helping out in the kitchens of her family’s Brazilian restaurants. She went on to study culinary arts at The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, then worked with talented chef and author Dean James Max at 3030 Ocean, and eventually sparred with Gordon Ramsay on the popular culinary competition show Hell’s Kitchen.

Now, at age 32, she turns up the heat with a specialized Montague broiler she helped design, perfecting the art of the steak seared at—you guessed it—1500 degrees. DaSilva took a break from the broiler to sit down and give us the not-so-skinny.

You’ve come a long way from peeling garlic in your parents’ restaurants. How does it feel?
PAULA DASILVA: My favorite memories growing up are from time spent there, in the basement, doing prep work with my grandmother. To be honest, 20 years later I’m still peeling garlic and vegetables! But it’s important to know all aspects of the restaurant to be successful. And coming here to 1500° gave me a good feeling in my gut.

Your family’s establishments were Brazilian. What types of ingredients were prevalent in the dishes served there?
PD: The typical ingredients in a Brazilian kitchen are coconut milk, palm oil and dendê oil [a slightly spicy and nutty oil extracted from palm fruit].

Did your exposure to Brazilian cuisine influence what you prepared on Hell’s Kitchen?
PD: I climbed the culinary ladder with the “shut mouth and learn” philosophy. Working with my family—and also the decade I spent with Dean Max—gave me what I needed to deal with Hell’s Kitchen.

What did you take away from the experience?
PD: Gordon taught me that you can set your standards higher than you think.

Tell me what it’s like to prepare food for reality TV.
PD: Being in a reality-TV kitchen is nothing like being in your own kitchen. You are totally out of your environment, unfamiliar with the surroundings and always watching the clock. A lot of your time is spent looking for the ingredients you need and fighting for space to prepare your food.

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