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To Win Hell's Kitchen, It Helps to Hail From Hell

Is everybody as blown away as I am to have two Florida chefs as the last two finalists on this season's Hell's Kitchen? What did we do to deserve this -- I hardly know who to root for! Well, yeah, I do. I've got a soft spot for Paula DaSilva, the sous chef from 3030 Ocean in Lauderdale, a soft spot that makes me tear up every time I press on it -- in a pleasurable way -- like wiggling a loose tooth. For the first eight weeks, DaSilva kept herself so far under the radar that I was surprised Ramsey could even remember her name. I mean, she physically kept her head down, like she was trying to make herself invisible and escape his wrath.

But DaSilva hasn't dropped a pan or flubbed a sauce during the full run of the show. The girl is a workhorse; you can practically see her gritting her teeth and trudging forward under what have to be the most adverse conditions imaginable. When she occasionally gets nervous, as she did this week when she had to handle the pass, she just seems that much more winning.

Our Paula isn't showy or glamorous, not as sparky as Andrea, who took off her jacket for the last time this week. But she's entirely admirable. She embodies a very old-fashioned kind of model in today's culinary world: a hard worker who knows when to keep her mouth shut (she's almost painfully reserved), who doesn't brag or gloat or make a fuss about her talent but who shows up week after week and just quietly blows her competition out of the stock pot. She deserves her own restaurant at the Borgata, but even if she loses to Danny (and I don't think she will), we still win: We'll have her back in the Hell's kitchens of South Florida.

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Gail Shepherd
Contact: Gail Shepherd

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