Top Chef lost its last hometown hero this week when Sara Nguyen, formerly an executive sous-chef at Boucarou, let the increasingly volatile Howie get under her skin. (Adam Platt called her a “sacrificial lamb,” but we question anyone who puts ice in a milk shake.) Today, Sara tells us about Howie’s greatest weakness and who might suffer him next.
Did you ever expect to be the last New York chef standing?
I definitely did not expect to be the last one. It’s been very surprising to us, too. We thought at least one of us would be in the final four. It just pertained to each challenge and the things people weren’t comfortable with like Lia and Latin food, Camille and dessert, and Joey and frozen pasta.
You called the challenge “demoralizing.” Did you let it get the better of you?
I did. When I saw the episode, I wished I hadn’t been so negative. I was looking forward to going out and not having a challenge to worry about. I was definitely in that mind-set.
The men didn’t get why you and Casey might be frustrated about cooking in cleavage-revealing tops and heels. Did you expect Padma to at least have some sympathy?
Yeah, I expected some sympathy from some of the judges. But none of them really understood it. We kept saying give us some chef coats, but we didn’t get any. We had been elaborately fooled and I felt like an asshole.
The judges were not kind to your milk shakes. What inspired you to put ice in the milk shakes?
I like my milk shakes cold and not so rich. I wanted it to be a little more refreshing. I didn’t want to do milk shakes. They were Howie’s idea and I said, “Well, they’re your milk shakes.” Everything I seemed to be saying to him was being thrown back at me.
What’s Howie’s greatest weakness?
Howie’s greatest weakness is having a hard head. I got along with him outside of the competition, but I would never work for him. I was very nervous when I was on his team because I had seen his previous reactions. I thought by siding with him and going along with him, it would work out, but it was a no-win situation.
Who do you think Howie’s next victim will be?
I have no idea. I’m hoping that after what happened between us, he’ll cool down. I never threw him under the bus and I was always there for him. If he turned on me, he’ll turn on anyone.
What’s next for you?
I left Boucarou about a month after it opened to start filming Top Chef. It didn’t work out for either of us for me to stay there so now I’m taking a bit of a break. I’m probably going to start a catering company in the fall for people who love food and have open minds.
Who are you rooting for?
I’m rooting for Dale. I just got an e-mail from him last night saying that [my elimination] was sad. He keeps on asking me to move to Chicago to work with him when this is all done. —Rebecca Ruiz