While the big Top Chef grand prize is still up for grabs, there's one prize that fan darling Sheldon Simeon claimed on February 22: cooking at the esteemed James Beard House in New York City after winning the Elimination Challenge on episode 11.
"It's almost a fantasy. It's one of these dreams I've been dreaming about for awhile now," he said while prepping in the Beard House kitchen pre-dinner, adding, "No slouch off the street is invited here."
Sheldon and team prep their dish before dinner.
Sheldon cooked up the dish that won him the challenge, a homemade chow fun noodle made with Carolina gold rice topped with grilled pork belly, pea shoot salad, and annatto seed jus. "Man, I'm so excited that I get to share it here," he said.
Sheldon's winning dish: Carolina Gold Rice Chow Fun with Hibachi Pork Belly
But Sheldon wasn't the only cook in the kitchen that night. He was joined by some of the best chefs in the business, including former Top Chef cheftestant Carla Hall, James Beard Award winner April Bloomfield, and James Beard Award winner Tony Maws. Inspired by the flavors of Sheldon's Hawaiian-Filipino heritage, all of them contributed a dish to the overall menu.
Chefs participating in the dinner strike a pose in the Beard House kitchen.
Though Carla hosted last year's James Beard Awards and has visited the Beard House for events, "I've never cooked in this kitchen, so this is a bucket list item for me," she declared.
Susan Ungaro, James Beard Foundation president, said that she's been a big fan of Top Chef for years and has always wanted to film an episode at the Beard House. "But we realized our little kitchen was too small for the camera crew," she laughed.
"I think the Top Chef show, its judges, and the way it presents up-and-coming chefs…really gives people a bird's-eye view, a listening in, of what really happens in a kitchen," Ungaro said. "I also think it shows the incredible creative talent that chefs need to muster under pressure."
And Carla Hall wasn't the only former cheftestant on site. Another familiar face popped up to help Sheldon prep in the kitchen—fellow Top Chef Charleston competitor Silvia Barban, who owns a restaurant called LaRina in Brooklyn. The two are planning to cook together for a special joint dinner at Silvia's restaurant on March 1.
Fellow Top Chef cheftestant Silvia Barban with Sheldon.
"He's such a good person and an amazing chef," Silvia said of Sheldon. "I'm still learning, he's here teaching me how he's doing all his dishes and then it's going to be fun next week when he's going to come to my restaurant. I'm going to teach him some pasta."
To experience some serious FOMO, check out the full menu from the dinner below.
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