The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale
Since she first came on the South Florida dining scene in 2000, Chef Paula DaSilva has been a culinary darling; first as a rising star and later as an executive chef and one of the areas foremost talents in the realm of soulful, farm fresh cuisine. A member of the The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale culinary team since 2017, initially as Chef de Cuisine of its acclaimed restaurant Burlock Coast, DaSilva now serves as Executive Chef of the entire property. Across all elements of its culinary operations – banquets, in-room dining, pool, beach, and Burlock Coast – she brings years of expertise and an unyielding dedication for excellence.
A native of Brazil, DaSilva attended the Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale, where she earned a degree in Culinary Arts in 1999. That education proceeded a young love affair with cooking spent in her family-owned restaurants in Massachusetts and, later in South Florida. After graduating, she joined the Marriott organization in a kitchen position at 3030 Ocean at the Harbor Beach Marriott in Fort Lauderdale under Chef Dean James Max. The 3030 gig delivered a twofold education – real world knowledge in fine dining as well as the ins and outs of hotel F&B, both of which would come into play for DaSilva over the course of her storied career. Years of hard work and training paid off when DaSilva auditioned for and earned a slot on Season 5, in 2009, of FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsey; she finished as the season’s runner-up and fan favorite, cementing her place as one of Florida’s celebrity chefs. After the show her profile skyrocketed and, in 2010, DaSilva took her talents to South Beach as the executive chef of 1500 Degrees at the illustrious Eden Roc Hotel.
It was here where DaSilva truly came into her own as a culinary leader and creative visionary. The chic farm-to-table concept earned rave reviews and popular acclaim for its soulful, seasonal, rustic cuisine – which have now become synonymous with DaSilva’s style of cooking. Her culinary skills at 1500 Degrees earned massive praise and wide-ranging appeal, including a nod from Esquire magazine as one of the “Best New Restaurants in America” as well as a Semifinalist nomination in 2012 for “Best Chef: South” by the esteemed James Beard Foundation. With a change in hotel management and major changes afoot at the property, DaSilva departed and enjoyed a bit of downtime, traveling and consulting. She then returned to 3030 Ocean as executive chef and during her second stint there, DaSilva revitalized the menu, injecting her now-signature soulful cooking style into the restaurant’s seafood-centric menu.
“I loved my time on Miami Beach but Fort Lauderdale is very much home,” says the chef, who has lived in Broward County, Florida for most of her life. “I’ve worked on a number of concepts in some far-flung places but Fort Lauderdale always lures me back.” To that end, DaSilva joined a number of her former Eden Roc compatriots at The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale team in 2017, helming Burlock Coast, heralded by many as one of Fort Lauderdale’s finest dining destinations.
Proving her mettle, in 2018 she was promoted to Executive Chef of the hotel. In this role, everything in the hotel’s culinary realm falls under her auspices. “The Ritz-Carlton, Fort Lauderdale is an amazing property with many moving parts and it certainly presents its share of challenges,” DaSilva notes.
“But the energy of managing it all is an amazing motivator and it’s invigorating in its own way not to have a quiet day. There’s always something happening, something new to plan and it’s exciting to oversee and work with such a talented and passionate team.”
Beyond her fan favorite run on Hell’s Kitchen, DaSilva is not shy about competing. In fact, in 2017 the chef won top prize at Cochon 555, going on to represent South Florida at the national Grand Cochon competition. She is also incredibly active in the community. She has served for many years on the Chef Council for the annual Taste of the Nation fundraiser for Feeding South Florida; is the current Culinary Chair for Junior Achievement’s Uncorked event; works closely with the Foodservice Council for Women (FSCW), which was created to promote the importance of women and leadership in the foodservice industry; as well as Women of Food + Beverage, a council established by Marriott International to help highlight women in the industry. In 2019 she was nominated for the J. Willard Marriott Award of Excellence, the company’s most prestigious award for dedication to service.