Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon.
By Vanessa Wolf
Fans of Star Noodle’s Chef Sheldon Simeon may very well be watching with bated breath as he competes on this season of Top Chef, filmed in Seattle. This is the 10th season of the show, and Chef Simeon has now made it through the first four episodes…and twice as many challenges.
We talked to Chef Simeon about the show, the experience, and that ubiquitous red hat.
Maui Now: For your first official quickfire on the second episode, your team prepared geoduck. You previously mentioned you’d never been to the Pacific Northwest. Had you ever seen/cleaned/cooked or eaten a geoduck before? What did you think?
Chef Sheldon Simeon: This was my first time actually preparing it. I order it when I go to the sushi bar, Mirugai, and used to see it in the fish market when I was younger. I was excited that we got to play with it right out the gate.
MN: How about this business with Stephan, CJ and Josie coming back? Several of your peers mentioned they found it completely unfair. How do you feel about competing against three people who have been on the show before?
SS: You know, at first reaction I also felt it was unfair. We all thought that they had an advantage by having already gone through it, however when they ended up on the bottom, that solidified that it didn’t matter; all that mattered was food on the plate.
MN: Are you watching the show as it airs, and – presuming you are – what do you think of the facial hair, comments, and swagger of your competition?
SS: It’s all fun. What you see is what you get. I always wondered if I could rock a hipster mustache like Josh. Probably not. We all had swag on the show, and I’m glad that everyone is getting to see that.
MN: Speaking of distinguishing physical features, we appreciate the red “Where’s Waldo” hat when there’s a shot of everybody all at once, as it makes it easy to locate you. That aside, what’s up with the red hat: good luck charm? Fighting the sniffles? Nod to ‘The Life Aquatic”?
SS: Haha! Why yes, it is my nod to The Life Aquatic. Nah, I’m kidding. You know, I wore it in the first round at Chef Hugh’s kitchen and kinda just ran with it from there. I guess you could call it a lucky charm.
MN: On episode two, you were at the judges’ table as a winner twice. Then on episode three, you stood before them again representing one of the lowest-ranked dishes. How have these two extremes impacted you and your “game”?
SS: It was actually a blessing to have that happened. It just goes to show that you have to bring it every single time. It doesn’t matter what you cooked in the past, every challenge is a new one and bottom line is you have to cook good food.
MN: On episode four, you are challenged to cook from the original 1950s Canlis menu, and a strange story is shared. Had you ever heard the legend – Pan Am stewardesses smuggling mahi-mahi in ice-filled suitcases – before being on Top Chef? If I gave you a Pan Am stewardess with a smuggler’s heart and an empty suitcase, what would you have her convey..and to where?
SS: I’d send her off with a couple gallons of Opihi and bags of Poi for my cousins on the mainland. They’d be stoked!
MN: You are now four shows in: what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far?
SS: Cook the food that I want to cook. Don’t be swayed by the competition.
MN: We are developing a theory: win tonight, go home tomorrow, aka the “winners curse.” We are now two for two: Kuniko and Carla. Is anyone else seeing this trend?
SS: Tune in and “Watch What Happens”! Haha!
MN: Any other thoughts/comments you’d like to share?
SS: I’d like to thank all the fans. Everyone been so nice, and I met a lot of really cool people.
Episode Five of Top Chef Season 10: Seattle, airs Wednesday night (12/5) at 10 p.m. on Bravo. Tune in to cheer on Chef Simeon and hopefully watch as he continues to wow with his amazing food and aloha spirit. He’s the one in the red hat.
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.