Vanessa Wolf is a TV-less former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon. If you live in South Kihei and were planning to watch Top Chef tomorrow night, let her know if there is a convenient window she could peer through.
By Vanessa Wolf
Big Island-born and Maui Culinary Academy-educated Chef Sheldon Simeon appears on tomorrow night’s premier episode of Top Chef Season Ten: Seattle.
His profile on the Bravo website reveals “Sheldon talks the Hawaiian talk and loves to cook with local island ingredients, but is confident when competing against mainland chefs. The Executive Chef of Star Noodle in Lahaina, Sheldon is a two-time James Beard semifinalist — for “Rising Star” and “Best New Restaurant,” both in 2011. Also in 2011, Maui Nokaoi Magazine named him “Chef of the Year.” Food & Wine Magazine named Sheldon “Best New Chef People’s Choice” nominee in 2012. He learned his basic culinary skills at Disneyworld, where he also met his wife, but his competitive nature has ensured his continued success that has landed him all of these accolades.”
Chef Sheldon spoke with us about how he became a “Cheftestant” on the popular Bravo series and what we can expect from the man who started out at Aloha Mixed Plate and now heads up Star Noodle in Lahaina.
MN: How did you end up on Top Chef?
SS: Shortly after receiving the nod for Food & Wine magazine’s “People’s Best New Chef” Pacific Northwest, I was contacted with the opportunity of trying out for Top Chef. I was blessed to be chosen as one of the cheftestants for Season 10.
MN: Had you been a fan of the show and what were you anticipating beforehand?
SS: I’ve been a big fan for years. I’ve watched it from the start and always joked with my wife Janice about trying out for the show. Never in my life did I think that it would actually happen. It was difficult dealing with the fact that I would be away from my family for some time, but this was an amazing opportunity that I couldn’t miss. It wouldn’t have been possible without the tremendous support from my wife.
3. What do you hope your Maui friends, fans, and ohana will take away from watching you compete?
It is an honor to represent my family, the Star Noodle ohana, my hometown of Hilo, the island of Maui, and the state of Hawaii. I hope you all get to see my character, personality, and how my cooking greatly reflects my upbringing in Hawaii. I hope I brought a sense of Aloha to Top Chef.
MN: With respect to the other 19 cheftestants, it seems you bring a unique cultural perspective, both Filipino and Hawaiian. Was that a good thing, a challenge, and why?
SS: Growing up in Hawaii, we are blessed with the bounty of mauka and makai, land and the ocean. My parents are amazing cooks. Luckily, growing up, I was exposed to all sorts of food. It’s crazy to see how everyone is given the same set of rules for each challenge and the outcome of dishes are so diverse and a direct reflection of each chef’s background.
MN: Did you know ahead of time that the show would be filmed in Seattle? Had you ever been there before and what did you think of the city, climate and food?
SS: I did not know what city the 10th season was going to be filmed in. I have never been to the Pacific Northwest.
MN: Did your experience cooking at Disneyworld factor into competing on Top Chef and (if so) how?
SS: My stint in Disneyworld was my first time away from home (Hawaii). It was definitely an eye-opener for a kid from Hilo. What I learned the most during my time at Disney was learning to deal with different personalities from the people I met and encountered. People who grew up in Hawaii always intrigue people, and I learned to open up and share our culture with others. It was a big “grow up session” part of my life.
MN: Is there anything those of us familiar with your food at Star Noodle can expect or expect to be shocked by?
SS: I put it all out there on the line and cooked from the heart. It was an experience that will forever influence my cooking.
MN: Watching the preview video, it appears you had to prepare geoduck (among other things). Did you bone up on Northwest cuisine in preparation?
SS: Tune in and “Watch What Happens”!
Top Chef Season Ten airs tomorrow, November 7th, at 10 p.m. on Bravo. Until then, the first ten minutes (and a whole bunch of very loud Carnival Cruise ads) can be enjoyed here.
We welcome your feedback. Watching Top Chef Season Ten and have a question for Chef Simeon? Send it to us – vanessa(@mauinow.com) - and we’ll ask in a follow-up interview.
Please let us know if you hear of any new restaurants opening or reopening, total menu overhauls, or simply know of a hidden treasure you want to share. Have a restaurant you want reviewed (or re-reviewed)? Drop us a line. Mahalo.