When season 9 of "Hell's Kitchen" premieres Monday night (at 8 on Fox/5), we'll see a Long Island chowderhead -- and we mean that in the best way possible.
"I was in the top three the last two years in a row" at Montauk's annual Clam Chowder Contest, says chef Steven Paluba of Ridge, also known professionally as Steven Marc. The Brooklyn-born contestant, 45, who graduated from Comsewogue High School in Port Jefferson Station, is a Montauk mainstay who, with his wife, Colleen, runs the cafe at the Atlantic Terrace motel.
"I've been cooking since I was 14 years old and in the business for 31 years," Paluba says. "I used to watch my mother and my stepmother in the kitchen, and it intrigued me." He got his first job under a former chef for Manhattan's venerable Le Périgord, who'd opened a place in Shoreham.
Paluba went on to the now-departed Port Jeff restaurants The Printer's Devil, The Schooner and Noodles Café. After a stint with a Miller Place catering company, he founded Steven Marc's Creative Catering in Rocky Point -- which, among other things, provided cafeteria services for over a decade to the Shoreham-Wading River Central School District, he says. He and his wife now run C & S Catering in Ridge. Without giving anything away, he concedes that he and "Hell's Kitchen" maestro Gordon Ramsay butted heads. "Gordon's a tough guy, and I was the oldest guy on the show, and it's hard to teach an old dog. I did argue a couple of little things, but it gets you into trouble. You're not gonna win the argument -- it's his show. But in the bottom of my heart, no matter what he says, I still think there were certain things I was right about."
His bosses are certainly behind him: You can watch the premiere Monday night on a 16-foot screen at an Atlantic Terrace viewing party.