We were all heartbroken when beloved Top Chef cheftestant Sheldon Simeon was sent packing during the penultimate Elimination Challenge, leaving Brooke Williamson and Shirley Chung to battle it out in the finals. Sheldon, who was also knocked out after reaching the next-to-last episode during this previous stint on Top Chef Seattle, was hoping to claim the top prize this time around.
"To get so close to the end and, you know, almost taste it…I wanted another swing at it," he said, adding that he signed up for Top Chef Charleston without clearing it with his Tin Roof restaurant crew beforehand.
His second go-around on the show was "so much more fun…I've grown a lot," Sheldon said, noting that his previous season was nearly five years ago. "I really came into my own as a chef." That was evident from his numerous wins, including the infamous mise en place relay Quickfire, the "mystery partner" Quickfire (Sheldon was the only one who instantly recognized his behind-the-wall cook—his wife!), and the James Beard Elimination Challenge, in which head judge Tom Colicchio proclaimed that Sheldon would one day join "some of America's greatest chefs."
Surprisingly, that momentous James Beard dinner challenge wasn't his favorite of the season, however. It was the Episode 6 challenge, when the chefs had to create a dish paying homage to Edna Lewis, a pioneer of Southern cuisine. Sheldon made a dish with pork belly, cabbage, and potatoes based on a dish his grandmother used to make.
Sheldon's Edna Lewis Dish: Pork Belly wtih Cabbage, Potatoes, and Cabbage Jus
There was just something special about that day, Sheldon said. "It was super pretty that day, and the memory of my grandmother and my mom just…overwhelmed me," he said.
As for his worst challenge of the season? That one's easy. "That thing that they call Restaurant Wars?" Sheldon quipped. "I had to stand between Mr. Katsuji and John Tesar in the kitchen." Katsuji and John were at each other's throats the whole night, which eventually led to Katsuji's elimination. "It just wasn't a good showing."