Vanessa Wolf is a former head chef, previously working in Portland, Oregon.
By Vanessa Wolf
Maui’s Chef Sheldon Simeon appeared tonight on Part I of the two-part finale of Top Chef.
But did he make it down to the FINAL final two?
“What do you mean FINAL final two? He’s already in the final two!”
Well, remember that pesky Last Chance Kitchen?
Yep. “Cheftestant” Kristen Kish – eliminated five episodes prior – is back as a result of defeating her competitors there. “Last chance”, it seems, earns you a chance to win it all.
Thus, Kish, Simeon, and Chef Brooke Williamson convened at Tom Colicchio’s Craft restaurant in Los Angeles for Part I of the Season 10 finale.
There they were asked to prepare an appetizer, main course, and dessert for the diners at Craft.
Sheldon started with Spot Prawns served with radish and sea beans, a delicate and difficult dish to make.
From the get go, he appeared to be struggling with keeping up with the rapid-fire pace of service. The judges were quick to complain that his dishes weren’t coming out as quickly as the others.
Although he initially grabbed bacon and pork belly and made a brief and terrifying mention of pickled grapes, Chef Simeon ultimately decided to prepare quail for the main dish. Kristen settled on sweetbreads and Brooke went with short ribs.
While preparing his meal, Simeon received a little help from celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse. He explained his choice of protein, saying that he was “feeling quail tonight.”
“Taste your meal…and re-taste it,” Lagasse advised.
Chef Simeon commented that he “wanted to step up my game. I’ve learned a lot since Alaska, and I want to show judges how I’ve grown.”
His final dish was presented as Roasted Quail with pine nut puree, garam masala and tangerine.
A harbinger of bad news rang out when one of the judges commented after tasting the dish, “I want the old Sheldon. Seems like he’s been brainwashed.”
For his dessert, Chef Simeon presented White Chocolate Mousse with apple and fennel.
The judges were split as to whether the dessert was genius or the raw fennel overpowering and distracting.
Similarly, they commented that the quail was nicely cooked and seasoned…but the pine nuts were chalky because he hadn’t roasted them.
When Chef Simeon commented that they were “going to see a new Sheldon” in the ultimate finale, he was delivered some alarming feedback: “There’s nothing wrong with the old Sheldon. That’s what got you here.”
The judges continued to note that throughout the season Simeon’s food brought a punch of flavors. At the finale, his quail was well-cooked, but “wasn’t what was expected.”
When the white chocolate mousse was called out, Simeon commented – for the second time this episode – that ”I’m really not a dessert guy.” If you’ve watched the show in previous seasons, you know this is a kiss of death statement.
Simeon shared that he knew all along that he he wanted to use apples and fennel…but hadn’t really come prepared with a dessert. The judges agreed that the flavors can work, but putting a big hunk of raw fennel on top “is an incomplete dish.”
Simeon explained that the dessert he had planned was intended for the second part of the finale.
Alas, unfortunately, he won’t get to showcase that recipe (at least not on national TV).
In the end, Chef Simeon seemed to abandon the flavor profiles that got him to the finale… and was cut.
In his closing remarks, he noted that “it’s been an amazing ride. I cooked for Hawaii. I couldn’t have imagined that this would have happened. It’s been beautiful all the way. I wanted to bring home the title, but I fell a little short.”
He looked close to tears as he delivered his final thoughts, “I’m going home with my head high. I came to represent the state of Hawaii, and I’m going to continue to cook from my heart. Aloha.”
We welcome your feedback. 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 – Vanessa(@mauinow.com)