5@5 - Chef Paula DaSilva
January 21st, 2011
05:00 PM ET
Share this on:

5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

One of our token questions here at Eatocracy is: Who taught you to love food? Particularly of late, we've been talking a lot about how your upbringing can shape who you are (or are not) in the kitchen - from "Tiger Mothers" to grandmothers.

For executive chef Paula DaSilva of the farm-to-table 1500° restaurant in Miami, Florida, it was her native Brazil. Ever since her early days peeling garlic and vegetables in her family’s Brazilian restaurant, DaSilva has caught the cooking bug and hasn't let her knives dull since.

Five Favorite Foods From My Brazilian Heritage That I Can’t Bear to Keep Off My Menu: Paula DaSilva

1. Picanha (rump cover, part of top sirloin)
"Mmmm ... We love this cut in Brazil; it’s the most popular steak in our churrascarias and it’s revered by many as equal to - and often better than - filet mignon. As my all-time favorite cut, I chose to put it on my menu at 1500°, even though it’s not widely known or eaten here in the United States.

Much to my pleasure, everyone is falling in love with picanha! Its unique and perfectly layered thick, fat cap rounds the top of the steak and slowly renders as it cooks inside the broiler. The fat on this part of the top sirloin is just so flavorful. And by the time the steak is done cooking, you’re left with just enough of the thin, perfectly crispy layer to enjoy a bit with every bite. Cooked with nothing but a little rock salt, the finished product is tender, juicy and succulent!"

2. Chicken, chicken, chicken
"I grew up eating chicken almost every single day at home. My mom is a great cook and she always made the chicken different, so we never bored of the bird. And even on nights when she decided to make fish, a chicken option was always available. I love chicken and the warm, comforting feeling it gives me! I wanted that comfy feeling to come through on my menu, so I do a really nice whole rotisserie chicken to share family-style. Each one I put out reminds me of family dinners at home."

3. Rice and beans
"In my book, two things go hand-in-hand with just about anything: good ol’ rice and black beans! I don't think I missed a day of eating these as a kid. It was a staple. It didn't matter if we also had pasta or potato salad, or feijão tropeiro (red beans with bacon, eggs, collard greens and yucca flour), we were having rice and black beans.

One protein, one starch, one vegetable? Not in Brazil! We break all those rules - or perhaps, there is no such rule. So yes, sometimes I would have a hodgepodge of rice, pasta, potato salad and beans on my plate … add a fried egg thrown on top - perfection! It was delicious! My ode to this is the black bean purée and Carolina white rice grits with chorizo that I serve with the roasted chicken."

4. Pig, and all parts of it
"We also ate a lot of pork growing up. Feijoada, a national dish of Brazil made with black beans and various parts of the pig, was a delicious treat. We’d bug mom to make it whenever there was reason, but it was a special meal because there are a bunch of steps and preparations that go into making it. I didn't know what to think when I would see my mom cleaning pigs' feet and ears, but even as a kid, I loved all that flavorful fat!

There wasn't one piece of meat that I didn't eat from the feijoada - bacon was always my favorite, followed by smoked sausage. Yum! The love for swine has stayed in my blood - it’s definitely my favorite. I always want to use pork in my cooking; so much so that I have to stop and remind myself that this is not a pork chop house. I can’t help it; pork is just the tastiest of treats!"

5. Getting saucy with sauces
"A very commonly used sauce in Brazil is the traditional vinaigrette. It’s simply made with tomatoes, onions, cilantro, bell peppers, a little vinegar, oil and Tabasco. It’s found at every Brazilian churrascaria and also served with the classic feijoada. I do a version to be served with the steaks, but I jazz it up a little by using high-quality vinegar and olive oil, as well as adding some really nice olives, a touch of garlic and chili peppers. It’s a must have with steaks."

Does your upbringing/ancestry affect the way you cook or eat? Share your stories in the comments below.

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

Posted by:
Filed under: 5@5 • Bite • Brazilian • Cuisines • Think

soundoff (42 Responses)
  1. Tiago

    Portuguese food is not just basically cod and seafood...
    If people dont know any thing about Portuguese food, they should not talk about it!
    In my book, Chef Paula is great...
    Muito bem Chef Paula, és uma grand Chef e adoro ver os teus pratos.

    February 24, 2011 at 4:23 am |
  2. thayssa

    arroz carreteiro
    sanduiche natural
    agua de coco
    doce de leite

    January 26, 2011 at 4:03 pm |
  3. www.travelbyfork.com

    Its great to read a debate or discussion, whatever you wish to call it on different cuisines. Glad to see Americans are widening out in their food choices. I love it.

    January 25, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  4. Phattee


    January 21, 2011 at 10:40 pm |
  5. Bill Stevens

    What about "açai na tigela" (acai in a bowl)? When I lived in Brazil, this was without a doubt my favorite food. Picanha was #2 for me. Then all the fabulous fish dishes they have. Rice and beans is way down the list..too common in all countries to be considered Brazilian. Anyhow, lately I've found the best acai since I lived in Brazil. A company near Chicago imports premium acai pulps, check them out at http://www.amafruits.com. Trust me, Amafruits Acai is the best in North America. Real authentic acai!

    January 21, 2011 at 10:14 pm |
  6. Lilly

    I enjoyed the flavors of the Mediterranean as a kid and those tastes never leave you. Greek, Persian, Lebanese, Turkish food leaves all others to shame. I love almost all ethnic food (except Thai, something about that licorice/anise flavor I can live without), but in my humble opinion, the best has to be Persian and Indian/Bangladeshi spices and flavors. Even the dried lime, when used in fresh beef or chicken stews, are just awesome. My upbrining/ancestry definitely affects the way I cook and eat. Great article.

    January 21, 2011 at 10:07 pm |
  7. Yummy

    what about bolinho de bacalhau, coxinha de galinha, quindim, sardinha frito, vatapa? I miss those...

    January 21, 2011 at 10:00 pm |
  8. hrk


    January 21, 2011 at 9:59 pm |
  9. Lianne

    I grew up in Brazil and love eating churrasco (Brazillian style BBQ) on the weekend in family gatherings or even in Churrascarias (restaurant that serves BBQ).Picanha was always everyone's favorite. My family is originally from Taiwan and Chinese cusine was pretty much on our family table everyday. So having steam rice with stir vegetables and a slice of Picanha was just great! Since Brazil has influences coming from different immigrants background, many other dishes like lazanha and kibbe were part of our meals. I never got bored eating since we had such a diversity of food!

    January 21, 2011 at 9:48 pm |
  10. Michelle

    @ bostongye

    Under the radar indeed! The only things I really remember from my childhood family meals that are Portuguese are linguica and Easter bread. Yum!

    January 21, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  11. kueerduck

    Does your upbringing/ancestry affect the way you cook or eat? YES, I was taken, as a child, to many kinds of restaurants for the different than midwest meat/potato/vegetable plain thing. Since then i've learned something about food from everyone i've been around. The more people you meet the more varied the food and fun for your tongue and tummy.

    January 21, 2011 at 9:20 pm |
  12. Katelyn


    January 21, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
  13. Sebastian

    Brazil is so beatifull place for many diferents food.

    January 21, 2011 at 9:15 pm |
  14. andrea

    good article

    January 21, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  15. JRYDAF

    I'd hit it

    January 21, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
    • Jdizzle McHammerpants@work on Saturday >=(

      Such bad taste. Who raised you? Obviously, you don't belong amongst us "higher plane" commentators here.

      January 22, 2011 at 10:44 am |
      • Truth@JDizz

        Agreed...sometimes I think we need a log-in system here at Eatocracy to keep the riffraff out.

        January 22, 2011 at 11:08 am |
      • RichardHead@Jdizz

        I concur! Such language being used on a Food Blog!

        January 22, 2011 at 11:32 am |
      • Truth@JDizz, Biddle, RichHead

        Next thing you know, this clown will be bringing politics into it. I really can't understand some people...

        January 22, 2011 at 11:38 am |
      • Jdizzle McHammerpants@work on Saturday >=(

        WTF? The nerve of people and their random "I'd hit it" comments and pushing their political ideals on us. Before you know it we're gonna start hearing about how meat is bad for you.

        January 22, 2011 at 11:42 am |
      • RichardHead@SirB-TruthJdizz

        I must agree as some of those Damn Vegans have already posted on here regarding this Fantastic Chefs choice of what she adds to her menu. What is this world coming too?

        January 22, 2011 at 11:48 am |
  16. I_eat_FoOd


    January 21, 2011 at 8:28 pm |
  17. Fiona

    I was brought up on simply prepared meat, a starch, a veg. Seafood occasionally. I learned that food can be beautiful and creative when I moved to Italy for a time. But I've long since given up eating meat. The flesh-centric Barazilian diet is repulsive to me.

    January 21, 2011 at 8:27 pm |
    • Yummy

      That is your choice and I respect it. As long as you don't force your choice on others.

      January 21, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
  18. bostongye

    Brazilian food is good, but I want to see an article about Portuguese food! We're an under the radar demographic here in the US, but we make some great food man!

    January 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
    • gusta maia

      Portuguese food? it's basically cod and seafood, nothing much...

      January 21, 2011 at 9:56 pm |
  19. Eric

    Google: "Earthlings Video", then enjoy your meat.

    January 21, 2011 at 8:17 pm |
  20. JV

    I am quite lucky (and a bit spoiled) when it comes to food. Growing up in Peru and having lived in the main three regions (coast, Andes, and Amazon) as a kid I was able to try a variety of foods, textures, and sauces. In the coast I was always delighted to have seafood dishes; from Ceviche to Sudado every single recipe offered a beautiful combinations of flavors, specially the acidity of limes and the delicious heat of spicy peppers. In the Andes I always enjoyed Carapulcra with its distinct re-hydrated potato flavor. I remember when mom used to add three meats to it, pork, chicken, and beef....talk about a nice hot dish during the cold Andean nights. Finally, I remember how in the Amazon I used to go on walks and pick up 20 or so mangos, bring them home and have my mom make some fresh icecream....oh boy, still my favorite fruit. And I could never forget the Juanes, deliciously condimented rice, a piece of chicken, a boiled egg, all together boiled inside banana leaves. Has that affected the way I cook now? Yes, I hardly run out of ideas; however, It also makes me melancholic and at times disappointed when I can't attain the same flavors. Nevertheless I think it is good to keep the bar high. Thanks Peru, miss you.

    January 21, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • learntosign

      Awesome post!

      January 21, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
      • Rene


        January 21, 2011 at 10:21 pm |
  21. T.Petrie

    I'm a retired Chef living in Las Vegas and had the opportunity to work in the first churrascarias here. They are a lot of fun &
    and obviously ASH dosn't know about Brazlian culture. This is Gaucho food, COWBOYS & CARNIVIORES.
    My son told me a few years ago that he was a vegetarian and I wondered where I went wrong.

    January 21, 2011 at 7:57 pm |
  22. Karnovor

    Pffft... If life wasn't about meat why's it so tasty?

    January 21, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  23. josh

    i hope one day the pigs and cows and come and eat you all up – your thigs, ears and your brain – wait a minute – they can't eat something you don't have – can they ?

    January 21, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  24. ash

    It appears that an entire nation has sadly missed out on the wonderful dishes that can be made from veggies. I love Brazil, but they'd do well to search for inspiration from the East for some good veggie lovin'. Life is not all about consuming gigantic chunks of meat.

    January 21, 2011 at 7:41 pm |
    • Jon

      Brazil is a large country and like most large countries the different regions have different types of food. There are some regions where the food is less meat based. The same thing is true of India.

      January 21, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
      • martin2176

        I think you have good world exposure, unlike many who comment on cnn articles

        January 21, 2011 at 9:13 pm |
    • aml

      Hey hippie, go make some bean sprouts. She did mention other things besides meat. Rice and beans, and the vinaigrette. I guess you wont be happy until the entire article is pure veggie. I could see if the entire article was about meat, but really that is not the case.

      January 21, 2011 at 9:30 pm |
  25. yard

    Yum.... I have dined in churrascarias in Rio & Sao Paulo and it was wonderful and the salad bar areas are just fantastic with a variety items known and some unknown (..to me anyhow) that was out of this world.

    January 21, 2011 at 7:33 pm |
  26. Jdizzle McHammerpants


    January 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  27. Truth


    January 21, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  28. RichardHead

    I would love to stand in her kitchen and watch her cook. Any woman that can cook BEEF as well as she does is #1 in my book.

    January 21, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
| Part of

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 9,974 other followers