‘Top Chef’

Sheldon Simeon advances to finals in Guadalajara, Mexico

Maui’s Sheldon Simeon (right) was blindfolded in a previous episode in a test of palates. At left is Season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio with host Padma Lakshmi. Tonight, Sheldon will appear in the “Top Chef” finals as the show heads south of the border to Mexico. “Top Chef” photo

In last week’s episode in Charleston, S.C., Maui’s Sheldon Simeon was among the four final chefs to cook impromptu dishes while instructing a mystery partner hidden behind a screen how to make the exact same creation.

He was the only one who recognized his partner, who was his wife, Janice Simeon, She got to see him win the final Elimination Challenge firsthand.

As winner, Sheldon has landed a spot in tonight’s finals in Mexico, and will have his dish featured at the James Beard House in New York City.

“Top Chef” airs tonight at 7 on the Bravo cable channels.

“I’ve had a good time the whole season. Got to cook my heart out,” Sheldon said in a phone interview. “I cooked what I grew up eating. Especially being there in Charleston, and connecting to South Carolina and its roots. I related to the plantations and how my grandparents were immigrants to Hawaii and their humble backgrounds.”

So what was his winning dish? It was a glorified version of chow fun that he made from pulverized rice for the thick chow fun noodles, topping it with grilled pork, bean shoots and raw tomatoes. Sheldon was pleased to win and brought up his humble background, but series judge Tom Colicchio, told him to forget about being humble.

“One day you’ll take your place among the world’s greatest chefs,” Colicchio told the big-eyed Sheldon.

The finals begin in Guadalajara, Mexico, as the three remaining chefs face off against the winner of “Last Chance Kitchen” at the new Chivas Soccer Stadium.

For the first battle of the finals, guest judge Francisco Ruano tells the chefs to create a dish using goat, the mascot of Chivas. At the Patron Hacienda, the chefs are tasked to pair their own unique cocktail with a dish that incorporates the sweet, salty, bitter and sour notes of a margarita. With some sous chef help from eliminated chefs, they’ll serve the drinks and dishes to 100 VIPs, including Chef Ray Garcia and returning guest judge Richard Blais.

“At this point of the competition, every detail is looked at,” Sheldon said. “Every flake of salt is noticed.

“You get pushed off the edge and you learn how to swim,” Sheldon continued. “They put you in situations. That’s why you only see veterans left. The pressure cooker and the anxiety of the show is something you have to take day by day.”

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