The heat is on in Top Chef Season 14 as we head toward the grand finale this Thursday at 9/8c. But unfortunately, determining the final two cheftestants meant that we had to say goodbye to one talented and beloved chef in last week's episode. We suggest you stop reading here if you want to avoid any SPOILERS.
The judges eliminated Sheldon Simeon after a challenge that tasked him and fellow cheftestants Shirley Chung, and Brooke Williamson with creating a dish using only traditional Mayan ingredients and tools as the chefs continued their culinary journey in Mexico. When Sheldon cooked his snapper over an open flame during the challenge, it stuck to the grill, which would eventually prove to be his downfall.
Sheldon recently told Bravotv.com that he could feel that it just wasn't going to be his challenge. "That elimination challenge was difficult — not that I was the only one out of the element, but it just didn't come through. Everything was a struggle that day. It was probably my worst cooking throughout the whole season," he explained. "And my fish stuck [to the grill]. At that point, I was like, this is the worst challenge that you did. I might be going home. So I kind of knew that it might have been coming."
So the Hilo, Hawaii-born chef said he wasn't surprised when host and judge Padma Lakshmi told him, "Pack your knives and go." But that doesn't mean it still didn't sting a little to watch this episode back. "Watching this episode, the elimination was actually pretty hard. It was difficult to relive the moment, but nothing to hold my head low about," Sheldon said. "I'm gonna just keep on cooking."
The judges also seemed incredibly sad to see Sheldon go, which made the chef feel a little bit better about leaving. "The judges have been so awesome throughout these two seasons. We've gone through a lot of things together. That's how awesome food is. Food, you connect on emotionally like that, and I think I connected with the judges," Sheldon shared. "So Padma's super sweet. She had tears in her eyes. I started crying a little bit. And Tom [Colicchio]'s been super supportive all season, and he's had some really amazing words to say. And that felt good to send me off."
We can only imagine that hearing Tom repeat that Sheldon will "take your place among America's greatest chefs" as he made his exit from the culinary competition must have been somewhat of a consolation prize. "It was crazy to hear Tom say those words. Here I am, a kid from these islands, a small, little place in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and Tom was somebody that I looked up to, the type of chef that I want to be, saying these choice words," Sheldon gushed. "It gets me emotional, totally, for all those times of working hard and putting my head down, it felt good to get reassurance from Chef Tom."
Of course, after landing in third place behind winner Kristen Kish and runner-up Brooke during Top Chef Season 10, Sheldon said he was hoping to take home the title this time around. "My goal from the beginning of this season definitely was to be called Top Chef. To get so close the last time around, make it to the final three, I wanted another stab at it. And when I cooked the last time around, I totally switched my style, and that was a huge lesson to me," Sheldon said. "So this time, I had another chance, I was gonna come back, and be Sheldon. And [I] stuck to my guns and cooked my food."
But these days, Sheldon is not looking back on his time on Top Chef with any regret — well, for the most part. "My biggest regret is I probably should have dabbed more on camera [laughs]," Sheldon joked. "No regrets this season. It was a great time this season. I might have fell short, but I enjoyed myself. I stayed true to myself, I cooked my food, I got to share a little bit of my heritage, and it went pretty good, I guess."
Since this season of Top Chef, one of Sheldon's dreams came true when he cooked at the James Beard House after winning the honor during an elimination challenge earlier this season. Sheldon also has plans to open up a new restaurant in Hawaii at the end of the year, and he is looking into expanding his current Tin Roof restaurant, he shared during a recent interview with The Feast.
Yes, we'd say Sheldon has done more than "pretty good" for himself.
Hear more about what Sheldon is cooking up for the future, below.