Hell’s Kitchen Runner-Up Paula: “I Was Genuinely Happy for Danny”

by | May 15, 2009 at 2:15 PM | Hell's Kitchen, Interviews

Paula Dasilva isn’t a sore loser. In fact, she took her Hell’s Kitchen loss in stride. The 28-year-old executive sous chef from Coconut Creek, FL went into the final dinner service with Danny with confidence. But when she got stuck with Lacey and Andrea, who didn’t seem capable of handling bananas or halibut quite as deftly as Paula could, she quickly realized her dinner service wouldn’t go over quite as smoothly as Danny’s. Not that that made a difference-Chef Ramsay admitted it was pretty much a tie after the last patron left. Sadly, luck was not on Paula’s side that night. Read on for Fancast’s interview with Paula, and find out what she had to say about Danny’s overly simple menu— and, of course, Lacey.

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What was it like watching the show back last night?

Watching last night was incredible. I didn’t get to see much of it to be honest with you. The only thing I saw was the last five minutes. But we had a huge party at my restaurant and it was just really overwhelming. The energy in the room was incredible. It was pretty fun.

You seemed really humble and happy for Danny. Is it because you had a lot of respect for him as a chef?

Absolutely. Danny’s a good kid and we got along really well throughout the entire competition. I think he really deserves it. I was genuinely happy for him. I wasn’t upset for myself. I wasn’t smoking. I didn’t for one minute think it should have been me. I was happy for Danny.

What were your thoughts going into the finale? Were you worried that you wouldn’t win?

You know what, I wasn’t thinking about that. The only thing I was thinking about was focusing on me and my restaurant and my staff and my food. What Danny was doing was just the furthest thing from my mind at that point. It just didn’t cross my mind.

You kind of got stuck with Lacey there at the end. What was going through your mind when you found out she was going to be on your team?

I think given the amount of experience I have… I’ve worked with a lot of interesting folks in my time, and some of them are just like Lacey. For me, the biggest challenge of being a chef and a leader is you’re not always going to hire the best cooks in your kitchen. Sometimes you’re going to have people that struggle a little bit more, that whine, complain, need more help. And the big test of being a great chef is, can you take that cook and make them a great cook? If you can, then that’s shows you’re a lot stronger. Who doesn’t want a great cook in your kitchen? But sometimes that’s not always going to be the case. To take somebody who’s weaker and then make them stronger is important.

Lacey and Andrea thought your menu was too complex. Was that a consideration when you were planning your menu?

I was of course trying to make the best food possible, but to be honest, that was probably the simplest menu I could put together. That was in the back of my mind— the execution and the staff. My food is complex a little bit. I’m not doing twice baked potatoes on a plate. I’m sorry. I have to represent myself. Yeah, it was definitely more difficult than Danny’s menu. Sorry guys, but that was a pretty simple menu. But they did a great job no matter how complex they thought it was. They pulled it through and I was happy with it.

What kind of restaurant do you want to open one day?

I love sea food. I’ve been working mostly with sea food. I think there’s so much out there in the ocean that you can do with. Not that I don’t prefer to cook with meats either, I just love the ocean.

Was there anybody else that you wouldn’t have felt so at peace with had they won? I’m sure if Lacey had won you would have been pretty pissed.

Yeah, that would have been a joke. I’m happy that Danny won. Seriously. The kid deserves it. He proved himself. We both made it to the end and I think he deserves it. Would I have been happy with anybody else? Sure. Well, I shouldn’t say whoever… of course there are some that, no. But I think if anyone from the last six had been the winner, I would have been happy with that as well.

What’s Chef Ramsay like outside of the kitchen versus inside of the kitchen?

Yeah, I mean he’s still the same energetic and intense guy outside of the kitchen. That never changes about him. The only difference is he’s not screaming in your face and calling you a donkey. He’s just a normal guy. It’s a job. Once he leaves the kitchen, you leave the job there. And I think he does that.

What are your plans now?

My plan right now is to stay where I’m at. It’s not a bad prize to come home to. I love that place. I love the people there and everyone I work with. That’s my focus right now is to get back into the kitchen. I’ve been taking quite some time off lately. I’ve got a few things lined up for the summer I’m doing. So that’s my focus.