Maui chef rising to the top

Maui chef Sheldon Simeon keeps rising like cream to the top of the Bravo Channel’s top-rated food show, “Top Chef.”

Wednesday night, the executive chef of Star Noodle in Lahaina and Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop in Olowalu experienced an adventure of a lifetime in the glacial Quickfire Challenge on “Top Chef.”

In the elimination challenge segment that followed, New Orleans superstar chef Emeril Lagasse and award-winning Los Angeles chef Roy Choi cooked an emotional meal to set the tone for the “cheftestants.”

A panic attack threatened one chef’s ability to compete. In the end, only two were victorious and will move on to the final rounds in Los Angeles, and Simeon is one of them, bringing pride to the Maui restaurant world.

“Everyone’s been so supportive,” Simeon said in a phone interview between tapings. “I’ve received tons of kind words, and I want to thank everyone for their support.”

No stranger to getting kudos, Simeon was nominated as a Rising Star Chef of the Year in 2011 in the prestigious James Beard Awards, the Oscars of the food industry. Star Noodle was nominated as Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation also in 2011. And, Simeon was named Best Chef on Maui that same year by readers of The Maui News.

A Hilo native, Simeon studied culinary arts at Leeward Community College on Oahu. He then interned at Disney World in Orlando, Fla., where he met his wife, a Maui girl. The couple then moved here, and Simeon finished his studies at the Maui Culinary Academy on the University of Hawaii Maui College campus.

Coming up next week, the married father of three is primed and ready to step up to the plate in the two-part “Top Chef” finale, the first part of which will air Wednesday evening on Bravo cable Channels 40 and 560. (The show times were not immediately available.)

The chefs will return to Los Angeles to cook at Craft, Tom Colicchio’s acclaimed restaurant. This is where the “Last Chance Kitchen” winner will re-enter the show to be crowned and join Simeon and the other remaining chef.

Colicchio will open his restaurant and give the final three cheftestants free range of his kitchen to create their own menus for dinner service as he dons his apron to play expeditor in the kitchen. John Besh and Martin Yan will join judges Lagasse and Hugh Acheson along with head judge Colicchio and host Padma Lakshmi.

Will Simeon move on to the final “Top Chef” episode on Feb. 27? Stay tuned.

* Carla Tracy can be reached at