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Maui chef Simeon keeping busy schedule during break

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  • Courtesy vintage cave

Sheldon Simeon is taking a break. The former Star Noodle chef turned in his apron at the Maui eatery on April 30 — understandable in light of the whirlwind demands of celebrity following his third-place finish on Bravo’s "Top Chef: Seattle" competition.

"I’m taking a step back to re-evaluate what’s next," he said last week from Maui. "I’m spending time with my family and enjoying it ’cause when I go into my next endeavor, I’m all-in again."

So has he been at the beach? Or maybe channel surfing from his living room couch?

10-course degustation dinner, focusing on local flavors

When: June 19 to 22, seatings at 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.

Where: Vintage Cave Honolulu, lower level of Shirokiya at Ala Moana Center

Cost: $245 plus tax and gratuity

Reservations: Call 441-1744

Not a chance. We’re talking about Sheldon Simeon.

His relaxing time includes visiting friends on farms and hanging out with them at farmers markets, where he "cooks something" for customers. He just returned from a trip to Calgary, Alberta, where he displayed his chops as a member of a Maui Visitors Bureau delegation.

This past weekend, Simeon handled the after-party at the 32nd Annual Kapa­lua Wine & Food Festival, delivering such items as tater tots with kalua pig, braised tripe with ginger and green onions, and li hing mui popcorn with arare.

Next week, from June 19 to 22, he’ll be the featured guest chef at the Vintage Cave Hono­lulu, the premium restaurant helmed by Chris Kaji­oka.

Simeon is looking forward to it, to say the least.

"It’s cooking at the highest level. It’s a $10 million restaurant with every tool and ingredient at your fingertips," he said. "Whether it’s Wagyu (beef) from Japan or a simple piece of cucumber, the attention to detail and execution is unbelievable.

"Any experience for a chef to cook with others and be inspired advances his cooking so much."

Besides, "everyone’s like family over there."

Simeon says leaving his job at Star Noodle offered him the flexibility to take up opportunities that allow him to cook creatively.

For instance, he is planning a pop-up dinner on the Big Island at Hama­kua Heritage Farm, home of Hama­kua mushrooms.

"The good thing about pop-ups is that it allows you to be creative and have fun with cooking," he said. "I can take my own background and the influences of the farmer or purveyor and create something.

"Being spontaneous has always been my favorite way to cook. When I was growing up, if my auntie or somebody showed up at my house, my dad would say to grab something out of the freezer and cook something up quickly."

As to whether this break affords him the time to build on the lessons learned on "Top Chef," Simeon says he’s continued to evolve his cooking style while remembering his culinary roots.

"I’m switching it up a bit," he said, "but I always want to remember to incorporate the flavors from my background. It’s a big part of me."

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