by Don Tagala, ABS-CBN News
NEW YORK — This Filipino-Hawaiian chef was just a heartbeat away from the Top Chef season 14 finale.
Hawaii-born Chef Simeon Sheldon made it to the top three both in Top Chef season 10, and the recently-concluded season 14.
In season 10, he won the coveted “Fan Favorite” award.
Then, Top Chef brought back eight fan favorites, including Simeon, to compete with eight brand new “chef-testants” in season 14 — where he was eliminated right before the final challenge.
“It was disappointing to be eliminated… when I went on the show there was only one thing you know, that I wanted to make it to the end and be called Top Chef,” Chef Simeon told BA. “In the end I’m a winner, because I got to be myself, and share a lot of my culture.”
Throughout the competition, Sheldon showcased his Filipino and Hawaiian roots in his cooking, as much as he possibly could.
The show’s host, Tom Colicchio, got to sample kilawin, okra, patis and bagoong — some Pinoy ingredients that made it to Top Chef episodes.
“It just goes to show a lot of people still don’t know what Filipino cuisines is,” Sheldon said. “It can be shown in many different styles, and flavor is amazing… so to have that kind words from Tom is a win for all of us Filipinos out there.”
He may not be the Top Chef grand prize winner — but winning Episode 11’s James Beard “house challenge” was a dream come true for Sheldon.
Showcasing the Filipino lumpia and his winning dish: Carolina Gold Rice chow fun, with okra
“It was almost surreal as i step into the James Beard house,” he said. “A kid from Hawaii, and being Filipino too, to be in a place of such prestige.”
Today, the Pinoy show finalist is a proud restaurateur.
His restaurant, Tin Roof Maui opened just a month before he started competing for Top Chef season 14.
From the spam bowl to balikbayan bowl, Chef Simeon went all out Filipino-Hawaiian in his restaurant.
“For me Hawaii is so unique,” he said of his roots. “Being Filipino in America is so unique. Let’s celebrate that — let’s be proud about what our whole culture is.”
Chef Simeon is a third generation Filipino-American, whose grandparents came to the US from Ilocos when they were teenagers.
He is opening a new restaurant called “Hala” – named after a Pandan tree — that will feature more Filipino-inspired dishes in Hawaii soon.