Paula DaSilva knows how to cook under pressure.
She has headed two signature restaurants before resurfacing this year at the new Artisan Beach House and walked the gauntlet in season 5 of Hell’s Kitchen. Perhaps that’s what helped her fend off some of the best South Florida chefs to win the Cochon 555 cooking competition Sunday at the Ritz-Carlton South Beach. She was dubbed Miami’s BBQ Queen.
“I said, ‘We’re just going to do food that’s our style,'” DaSilva said.
The event paired five teams, paired with five wine makers, challenged with using every part of a heritage-breed pig. The goal is to raise awareness of the importance of sustainably raising animals locally and not being wasteful.
DaSilva toyed with the idea of molecular gastronomy to gain the edge in creativity. In the end, she chose simple, accessible dishes, many using classic French techniques, with touches of her upbringing in Brasil: feijoada with pork sausage, carrot vandouvan, barbecue pork rillette, pork consomme with lardo ravioli, pork belly nachos, and even a classic Southern shoo-fly pie using lard instead of butter.
“I cook so rustic and simple, I wondered, ‘Is it going to be enough?'”
Clearly it was. She won the judges’ votes, against other well-known Miami chefs: Clark Bowen and Rick Mace of Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne and Palm Beach’s Cafe, Tito Vargas of Jose Andres‘ Bazaar Mar (modern Spanish with a twist); John Gallo and Rene Reyes of Pinch Kitchen (freestyle American); and Jeremiah Bullfrog of gastroPod and the annual whole-hog P.I.G. competition (elevated street food).
DaSilva and her chef de cuisine, Tony Coddington, will travel to Chicago in October to compete for the national title.