Maui Food and Dining

Sheldon Simeon 2 Episodes from Finale on “Top Chef”

February 5, 2013, 12:32 PM HST
* Updated February 5, 12:52 PM
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Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon.

By Vanessa Wolf

Chef Sheldon Simeon. Photo courtesy Bravo TV.

Chef Sheldon Simeon. Photo courtesy Bravo TV.

Could Maui’s own Sheldon Simeon win it all on Bravo’s Top Chef Season 10?

We’re only a couple more episodes from finding out, and it’s still well within his grasp.

He had his toughest night yet on last week’s episode. We talked with him to get some insider information and discover if the challenges are really as stressful as they look…or perhaps even worse.

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Maui Now: On Episode 13, you all go on a cruise from Seattle to Juneau, Alaska and Brooke immediately reveals she has a fear of boats. What’s your worst fear?

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Sheldon Simeon: My worst fear is never seeing any of my girls again. They are my everything.

MN: In the Quick Fire challenge, you are required to work with iceberg lettuce, which you refer to as “boring.” If you could have picked your own green, what would you have chosen instead?

SS: I guess for that challenge it was fitting for “iceberg” lettuce since we were on a ship. Mustard greens would have been fun.

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MN: You ended up winning the Quick Fire challenge with your Vietnamese Lettuce Wrap with pork, shrimp, and pickled iceberg lettuce hearts. Is that something you would ever make or serve again?

SS: It was actually a fun take of the Vietnamese Crepe that we serve at Star Noodle.

MN: Speaking of which, would you consider a special menu night at Star Noodle where you prepare and serve the food you made on Top Chef? (And if so, can we come?)

SS: You know, it would be fun to cook some of the dishes I made on Top Chef. I cooked some really cool dishes throughout the season and definitely could see a menu inspired by Top Chef. And of course you can come.

Chef Simeon's re imagined surf and turf dish. Photo courtesy Bravo TV.

Chef Simeon’s re-imagined surf and turf dish. Photo courtesy Bravo TV.

MN: The weather looked miserable and Padma was in a down vest, yet they kept showing you in just a t-shirt. How did you manage that? You spend a lot of time up on Haleakala or something?

SS: I guess my acting skills got better as I went through the season, because I was definitely freezing. I guess the cameras didn’t pick that up. When we were waiting on deck for the results of the quick fire I was shivering: very reminiscent of watching sunrise up on Haleakala.

MN: We learned on this episode that you love to get manicures. Any other secret hobbies or habits we might be surprised to hear about?

SS: I like keeping my hands and feet healthy. Haha! I always shampoo and condition my hair even when it’s buzzed down super short.

Only four remain. Photo courtesy Bravo TV.

Only four remain. Photo courtesy Bravo TV.

MN: Your prize for winning the Quick Fire was that you got to pick your proteins for the ‘re-imagine surf and turf’ challenge. Guest judge Curtis Stone specifically comments that “people put shrimp on a steak” as an example of the tried and true, and then you pick…steak and lobster. Were you thinking you were blocking the others from using the best ingredients or… ?

SS: I literally “froze up” on this challenge. It was my least inspiring dish of the season. What threw me off were the cooking vessels that we had to use.

MN: This episode we could really see the pressures of these challenges on all of you. I was a nervous wreck just watching this and having traumatic PTSD flashbacks to my own days behind the line. How difficult was it to make 200 dishes in two hours or be spontaneously “creative” knowing it was down to just five of you?

SS: It’s really difficult. By this time in the season, everyone is exhausted and tired. You want to always be creative, but sometimes the parameters of the challenge limits what you are actually able to do and execute within the allotted time. Cooking and plating 200 dishes in 2 hours, who does that? Haha!

MN: You commented that you “chose the worst proteins and executed it really badly.” If you had the challenge to do again, what surf and turf proteins would you pick instead?

SS: If I could go back I would of choose mussels and pork belly. Something like crisp pork belly with braised mussels

MN: With the advantage of hindsight and seeing the other “cheftestant” dishes, what might you make with the steak and lobster instead of the dish you prepared?

SS: Slow roasted filet mignon with tarragon crust, butter sous vide lobster with truffle sauce and truffle coulis, charred pearl onions, and masutake mushrooms.

MN: Yum. Speaking of the other “cheftestants,” which of their surf and turf creations would you most like to try?

SS: Most likely Brooke’s; her flavor profiles always amaze me.

MN: If you had any challenge in the show thus far to do again, which one would it be and what would you make?

SS: The roller derby challenge. It would just be executed better.

MN: In Stefan’s parting comments, he mentions that Top Chef teaches you to be creative and find inspiration. What is one thing you’ve learned from being on this show that has made you a better chef?

SS: Continue to push the envelope. You are much more capable then you think you are.

Chef Simeon continues to show us how capable he is week after week. Tune into Bravo tomorrow night at 10 p.m. as the four remaining chefs face off in Juneau, Alaska.

If there are relevant questions you would like asked of Chef Sheldon for our Episode 14 interview, please send them to Vanessa(@mauinow.com) by midnight on Thursday, February 7 for inclusion.

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