In our Top Chef recaps this year, Vince has nicknamed Chef Sheldon Simeon “Shel Chillverstein.” After chatting with Simeon last week, I can confirm the accuracy of that handle. On the show, the Simeon comes off as an ace cook who dodges the drama. In person, he seems like the sort of chef you’d love to have as your boss: kind, supportive, and a little more mellow than chefs in the famous Marco Pierre White era. Hell, there’s even an “other grinds” section of his menu at Tin Roof, in Maui. It doesn’t get much chiller than that.
That doesn’t mean Simeon isn’t a striver though. His cooking both on TV and IRL has been lauded for sharp plating and a commitment to telling a story with each dish. In fact, he says that seeing how judges reacted to his traditional Filipino and Hawaiian food on the show has led him to push even further in that direction.
Below, we speak about appropriation, trends, and Chillverstein’s take on my favorite “first date dish.”
First of all, what’s cracking with your back? Are you … I mean, it seems like in the season, you’re in quite a bit of pain.
Yeah. I’ve dealt with it the whole season. It just kept on getting … It was something that was always there that I had to deal with. I’m still not … I haven’t got it fixed or anything. The other week I was stuck in bed. I don’t know. My schedule’s kind of crazy right now, but I know at some point that I have to take some time off and actually go get it fixed. Do the surgery or something.
Do they shoot you with cortisol like a baseball player to keep cooking?
That’s exactly it. I felt like Mark McGwire, man. No calling in sick, Chef. That’s what it is.
Do you feel like you’ve really been able to reflect your cooking to this point? That your cooking has and your philosophies have been able to show up on the plate?
Yeah. This time around has been a totally different experience than the first time around, you know? Now, I think a big thing is that I’m not working for anyone. I have my own restaurant and I learned just to be myself and every single challenge that I go through, I kept that in mind. Do your food. Do your food. Express yourself. Try not to be something that you’re not. I think my dishes read that way throughout the whole season.