This season on Worst Cooks in America, 14 new hapless home cooks have joined the ranks to be mentored by chefs Tyler Florence and Anne Burrell. Split into the Blue Team and the Red Team, the recruits face new cooking challenges every week, gathering new cooking skills until just two finalists remain to face off in the last cook-off. That winner will walk away with $25,000 in cash, and his or her mentor will win bragging rights. Unfortunately, every week the two lowest-scoring recruits will be kicked out of Boot Camp. They lose the chance to win the prize money, but they leave with new skills learned from their mentors.
Every Sunday night, FN Dish has the exclusive interviews with the eliminated recruits, one from the Red Team and one from the Blue Team.
When it came to following a recipe, Cindy had some issues in the Skill Drill and Main Dish challenges. Chef Tyler found her seasoning lacking in both the dishes she presented, and Cindy pointed out her proteins weren’t seared enough, or — as she liked to say — “tan,” which also resulted in a lack of flavor that Tyler couldn’t get over. Although Cindy tried her best, she landed in the bottom two along with Rachel, who struggled with her fear of high heat and also plated a filet mignon lacking in color. But in the end, Tyler decided to send Cindy home.
How are you feeling after just having been eliminated?
Cindy Nguyen: I’m feeling really sad, but I’m not going to cry, because I did my best. … I put my best foot forward, and the only thing I missed was salt. I hate you, salt!
Take us back to your Skill Drill challenge. How did that go for you?
CN: I had to make a sauce from scratch, which I’ve never done in my life, and I’m trying to think what was wrong with mine. … My chicken wasn’t as tan as my neighbor, Ernie. So, I kept trying to get it tan. It was fun. I would do it at home.
How would you sum up the Main Dish challenge? How was it cooking the rolled steak?
CN: I felt like I was working in a restaurant. … I mean, I work in a restaurant now, and I’ve never been behind, like, back of the house. I felt like this dish was very complicated and something that is definitely for a restaurant. … You could make it at home, but it’s going to be, like, hours. Not just, like, within … 60 minutes.
What did you think about Tyler’s comments? Did you realize you forgot to season the outside before presenting the dish to him?
CN: Well, whenever you bring up your plate, he asks you, like, man up to your faults, “What happened?” And I said, “I didn’t season the outside.” And he’s like, “Yeah, you’re supposed to.” So, sometimes when I feel like I’d given my critique, maybe he wouldn’t have even noticed.
What was going through your mind when Tyler announced your elimination from the competition?
CN: I did not see this coming. … After every tasting, you talk with your peers and you discuss, “Wow, yours was good,” or, you know, like: “How did you do? How did you feel?” And both times, like the last elimination and this elimination … I waited in the stew room, knowing like I felt I wasn’t … even going to be [in the] bottom two. I felt like I’d be, like, mediocre in the center. … I didn’t even once think that I was [in the] bottom. Ugh, so that just, like, blindsided me, and then I kept — you know whenever you’re, like, standing there, and you just keep choking on your own, like, spit? That happened to me, and I was like, “Nooooooo.” UUUUGH!
How was it having Tyler as your coach?
CN: Tyler seemed … so nice. Every time you see him in the halls, like, you see him, and … right when you walk in he wants to shake your hand — he wants to feel, like, the connection, like, even when you present to him the plate, the dish, he holds my hand, and like, “How’d you do, Cindy?” I just feel like he really cares, and his food is so delicious. Tyler’s such an awesome person. I mean, I don’t know him personally, but I feel like I could hang out with him and have a beer.
Do you feel that you learned something from him, maybe a specific skill set?
CN: I’m definitely going to cut a chicken. … After you cut the pieces off the chicken, you can use the bone with a little bit of meat as, like, stock — chicken stock. So, I could do that.
If you could do it all over again, is there something that you’d do differently to stay in Boot Camp a little bit longer?
CN: I don’t know. I definitely seasoned every part of the dish. It’s just that one coating, I guess, gave it the extra … oomph. Nah, I would do everything the same. I did everything to my best.
When you go home, do you think you’ll try cooking a little bit or maybe experiment in the kitchen?
CN: When I go home I’ll try my two dishes again, but I don’t know. … I’m Vietnamese [and] I eat a lot of, like, noodles and rice. Chicken Marsala I probably wouldn’t make again, because that’s just something that I’m not used to eating, and, like, wine, cooking with wine, I guess. But I would cook the chicken again like that, and then the first dish with the corn, like, the sides — kale chips, definitely. That’s healthy, and it’s easy … 10 minutes in the oven and you could eat it, and then the corn. Creamy corn, maybe not so much, but the corn, definitely. Sweet corn is bomb.
Is there someone on your team you’re rooting for to make it to the end?
CN: I’m rooting for Ginny … I love her so much. But I also want Lawrence to win, because if he wins, we made a pact: We shook hands that he would fix my car, because before I left here some throttle thing broke, and … it only goes 10 miles an hour.
Overall, how was the entire experience for you?
CN: Unreal. Like, when I woke up every morning at, like, 5 in the morning to get ready just to come [here] … it didn’t feel like it was real. … It felt like I was … in a dream, I guess. Like, someone pinch me … I should be waking up and going to my regular job every day or, like, driving my own car in my city, not in New York.
Watch Worst Cooks in America on Sundays at 9|8c to find out which recruit goes home next.