September 19, 2012 | 8:14am
Cooper City High School has a reputation for many things: high academic standards, football, hooking scandals, the kids responsible for the murder in the book Bully, and, now, celebrity chef Paul Niedermann.
Since winning season nine of Hell's Kitchen, Niedermann, a Cooper City High alum, has taken over the reins as executive chef at Steak BLT in New York City. This week, however, he's returning south to headline the 16th-annual Signature Chefs Auction for the March of Dimes at the Harbor Beach Marriott Resort and Spa tonight at 6:30. We decided to take advantage of his return to catch up about his first year in the city.
Clean Plate Charlie: You're just about at the end of your one year tenure at Steak BLT. What do you have to say about the experience?
Niedermann: My experience was an amazing one, so much so that I've decided to stay on another year.
Can you fill us in on any gossip about the show? What can you say about the overall experience?
Well, I mean, there isn't really any gossip per se; but I can tell you it is a very intense experience. I mean, you are totally isolated from the world and in the biggest competition of your life. I looked at it as a job interview for the next seven years of my life.
What is Gordon Ramsay like in real life? Is he as mean as he seems on TV?
[laughs] Gordon is Gordon. What you see is what you get. You have to earn his respect before he will teach you anything.
What is his involvement in the restaurant?
He is not involved at all. He basically just vouched for me [laughs again].
What made you decide to headline this event for the March of Dimes?
My two nieces were premature, so it's a very special charity to me, due to the fact that I know firsthand how much it can affect families.
After growing up in South Florida, what did you think about your first New York winter?
My first New York winter wasn't that bad, but it's a very different thing up here. I mean, there is something to be said about walking through the city when it's snowing and just admiring all of the beautiful buildings covered in snow.
Who are your culinary idols?
Well, my father is a retired executive chef, so I kind of looked up to him growing up. Now I'd say Mario Batali, Gordon [laughs], but, mostly all of the great chefs I've been privileged to work with over the years and this past year in the city.
What are your favorite places to eat in South Florida?
Anthony's Runway 84, Scarpetta at the Fontainebleau, the Rustic Inn.
If you could have one last meal, what would it be?
Sunday dinner with my entire family.
What was the worst thing you ever ate?
Raw sea urchin, when I was working at the St. Regis. I wasn't ready for it! [laughs]
If you weren't cooking, what would you be doing?