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VIDEO: Simeon talks ‘Top Chef’
BY JACQUELYN M. CARBERRY / email@example.com
Sheldon Simeon already knows the winner of “Top Chef: Seattle,” but he’s not telling.
And he’s not playing favorites, either. He respects both Kristin Kish and Brooke Williamson, the two remaining competitors vying for the title, Simeon said. “I consider them sisters to me at this point.”
‘Top Chef: Seattle’
Airs at 8 p.m. Feb. 27 on Bravo (repeats at 9:30 p.m.)
It’s a chivalrous answer from the third-place finisher in Bravo’s cooking competition, who was told to “pack your knives and go” during the Feb. 20 episode. Taping of the finale, which airs tonight, Feb. 27, wrapped up the week of Feb. 16, but Simeon won’t — and cannot, by contract — say who is crowned the winner of season 10.
He acknowledged how hard it was to be cut after coming so close to winning the title. It was painful to watch the episode and “relive those moments,” he said with an easy laugh.
The man in the red knit hat seemed nervous during an interview in November, before the season began. But he’s had several months to get used to the spotlight.
It was a much different Simeon who answered questions by phone Thursday, the day after his exit from the competition. Relaxed and comfortable, he peppered his answers with comments such as “unreal,” “amazing” and “I can’t believe it,” relaying his experiences on the show with ease.
The aspect he is most proud of is introducing “Filipino food to the world.” That came during the “Restaurants Wars” challenge, in which Simeon commandeered the menu and whipped up five dishes with a Filipino flair in tribute to his grandfather, who cooked the cuisine in his home kitchen.
Business is up at the real-life Maui restaurants where Simeon is chef — Star Noodle, Old Lahaina Luau and Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop — since he debuted on the show.
“The numbers have been amazing,” he said. “It’s weird. I went from cooking on the line a year ago to being out in front of the house, shaking hands and hugging people.”
He’s been approached many times by autograph-seekers, some going as far as to stop him on the street. But as he said, “I’ve been one of those fans of the show, too.”
Before this season, Simeon had a chance to meet such “Top Chef” alumni as Paul Qui and Michael Voltaggio.
“I had gotten a couple of autographs, too,” he said.
The season has been a whirlwind, to the point that Simeon is somewhat relieved to be released from the immense pressure of standing before judges such as Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons.
“Every single challenge was difficult,” said Simeon. “You have one chance to make a good first impression. As a chef you have weeks and months to work on a new dish.”
But perhaps the sting of losing has been softened by the $15,000 in cash and the vehicle he won during the weeks of competition.
Viewers who stayed the course with Simeon know that he gave nearly every one of his dishes an Asian spin. Did he regret straying so far from those roots in the challenge that led to his elimination: making spot prawns, roasted quail and a white chocolate mousse? Simeon offered up a simple no. “No regrets. It was a beautiful season.”
Simeon, a two-time semifinalist for James Beard Foundation Awards, has had little time to implement what he learned at “Top Chef” on his own menus.
“Look for new ones in the very near future,” he said.
Also look for new undertakings, possibly a restaurant of his own.
“It’s not set in stone, but (there might be) a place of mine as far as new operations,” Simeon said. “I will continue to be the chef for Star Noodle (and the other restaurants). I have to remember food is what brought me to ‘Top Chef.’ It’s easy to forget.”