It’s always great to bring back our finalists after a few months’ hiatus, and this season was no different in that regard. These are talented young chefs, and I was looking forward to having them in my kitchen and, believe it or not, to expediting for them, which I thought would be fun. I was keen to see what they’d been doing to hone their skills and further their creativity over their time away…
While I think there was much to commend, I will admit to being disappointed by various aspects of their performance, but most of all with Sheldon’s choices. He didn’t cook his own unique food, the very food that had brought him all the way to the finale.
Everyone who creates does so with in their own particular way, hence the term “signature style” -- each person’s work is as identifiable as had s/he actually signed it. You identify the musical sound of your favorite band within two measures of a song’s introduction, you recognize your favorite novelist’s writing style, you know a Rothko from a Rauschenberg.
It’s no different with food, which is why the suggestion that we judge the food “blind” in our competitions wouldn’t accomplish anything -- very early into a season, we judges come to know which chef cooked a dish just by seeing it and tasting it.
Sheldon’s bold flavor profiles and innovative takes on Filipino food are exciting. Just because he wanted to plate his food differently and do something visually new upon his arrival at the finale was no reason to abandon the style he’d developed over the arc of his career to date. He could have done his food and just plated it in the more modern way he was now going for -- he might easily have knocked it out of the park.