To say that life has changed for Chef Sheldon Simeon would be an understatement.
After placing third in this season’s “Top Chef’’ competition on Bravo TV and winning over viewers to be named “Fan Favorite,’’ business has doubled at his already popular Star Noodle restaurant on Maui. Fans, tourists and locals alike now brave as much as a two-hour wait to get into the out of the way restaurant that serves creative pan-Asian street food such as Vietnamese crepes, and all manner of ramen, soba and saimin noodles – 100 pounds in total hand-made every day on site by one tiny, elderly woman whom Simeon affectionately calls “auntie.’’
The crowds at the other restaurant he oversees, Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop, aren’t too shabby, either.
When I visited Maui earlier this month as a guest of the Maui Visitors and Convention Bureau, I had a chance to sit down with Simeon at Star Noodle, where in between answering questions, he’d graciously accommodate the many diners who wanted to pose for photos with him. The 30-year-old chef, husband and father of three young daughters who was born on the Big Island, chatted about the impact the television show has had on his career that began humbly enough as a restaurant dishwasher.
Q: Why did you want to do “Top Chef’’?
A: I could see the opportunity it brings. It’s been overwhelming at times, but also a blessing. It was a chance for me to represent Hawaii. I wanted to test myself.
Q: What was the hardest part about doing the show?
A: Every challenge was hard. As a chef, I work alone on a dish. If I’m not satisfied with it, I don’t put it out. But on the show, I was like, ‘I can’t believe I’m serving this to Wolfgang Puck!’
Q: Did you practice in any way to prepare for the challenges?