By Joan Frances
Sarah Grueneberg is living her dream and the challenge of a lifetime. She is competing on the reality T.V. show “Top Chef: Texas” airing on Bravo at 9:00 P.M. Wednesdays. Sarah and her family are from Sugar Land.
Sarah’s talent started under the bleachers at her elementary school, Westbury Christian School in Houston. She imagined grass and flowers were food. Imagination is the key to her success. At age 22 she was the youngest female sous chef at the famous Brennans in Houston. Today, at only 30 years old she is the executive chef at Spiaggia Restaurant in trendy Chicago as she creates her magic in culinary art.
“Believe in yourself. Go with your gut.” She has said. It was her “gut” and the support from her family, fiancé, Jaime Canete and her boss Tony Mantuano that she entered the competition. Sarah tried out for the 3rd season, unfortunately didn’t get far. Persistence paid off as she was accepted to compete at the 9th season premier November 2 featuring 29 chefs that quickly dropped to 15, including Sarah.
This group traveled to Texas to compete in Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. The show features the host Padma Lakshmi and head judge Chef Tom Colicchio. A panel of esteemed judges includes Gail Simmons, Chef Emeril Lagasse and Hugh Acheson. Competing chefs vie for a $125,000 prize from Healthy Choice, a feature in Food and Wine magazine, a showcase at the Annual Food and Wine classic in Aspen and (of course) earn the title of “Top Chef”.
Sarah describes the competition as the toughest challenge she has ever faced, which is an understatement. Just watching the show is exhausting. In every episode the chefs are given an assignment and a time frame to complete and present it. Each judge samples and critiques the presentation scrutinizing everything from appearance to taste. The chef’s take the criticism and complaints in stride and continue to push forward in an attempt to be the last man/woman standing. The days are long and Texas weather is brutal. One recent episode had Sarah going to the hospital with heat exhaustion while she and her two team members were cooking all night and day to serve 300 people Bar-B-Que at the Salt Lick in Austin. She returned, still weak to help out. They did not win this assignment but she was not eliminated either.
For so long the chef’s world was a man’s world. Things have changed and women have become a driving force in the world of culinary art. Sarah has the drive and the talent to win this challenge. Artists are perfectionists. They have a vision of what should be. Personalities may clash, but at the end of the day the goal is accomplished. From all your fans in your home of Sugar Land Texas…you go girl!