Orchid Paulmeier has a familiar face to anyone who has been around the Hilton Head Island restaurant scene: Her One Hot Mama’s has been a staple since it opened in Bluffton in 2003, and became even more prominent when it moved to the island’s Triangle in 2007.But soon, Orchid’s face could be familiar all over the country, as she’ll be one of 15 finalists on this season of “The Next Food Network Star,” the show that skyrocketed Guy Fieri to fame, when it airs June 5 through Aug. 14.
Paulmeier wasn’t allowed to disclose details of the show, of course, but she could tell us what it’s like to go from girl with a dream and an ice cream scoop to Food Network celebrity.
Make Orchid a stare: Vote for Paulmeier at the Food Network's official site.
Q. How do you stand out on a restaurant-filled island?
A. You mean where there’s 240 restaurants? In a 12-by-9 mile radius? (laughs) The type of food that we sell, for one. We offer a lot of Lowcountry Southern comfort food. That’s attractive to tourists. We want them to taste a little bit of what the area has to offer.
Q. How did you get started in the food business?
A. My first job was scooping ice cream in a Baskin Robbins in a mall in Chicago. My goal by the
time I was 30 was to own my own restaurant — and I did.
Q. Where did you learn how to cook?
A. Just through the years, working in the restaurants. I’ve done everything from washing dishes
to being general manager. I have three kids; I can’t go out to eat every night.
Q. How did you get to the Food Network?
A.This was my third time trying out. The first time I went to Charleston and made it to the third round of interviews, but they didn’t call me back. The next year, I sent a video. Last August, I figured either “third time’s a charm,” or “three strikes and you’re out.”
Q. What do you think they were looking for this time?
A. I think it was just my energy. I was putting it all out on the line; I wasn’t going to try again. I’m
definitely not a trained chef, but I know what it takes to get food out that people want. I also let them
know that I want to be a singlenamed celebrity. I want everyone to know me by “Orchid.” Like
Madonna. That’s what I told them in my first interview.
Q. Did you learn things from the show that will change your approach at One Hot Mama’s?
A. Carrying myself professionally and being able to put myself out there. You’ve got to be on
your mark all the time. People are looking to take pictures, ask questions. One lady asked, “Can
you take a picture with my baby?” I said sure and took the camera, but she said, “No!” and handed
me the baby. I had just come out of the kitchen! I think I have to approach it a little bit differently now.