‘The Taste’ Has A Little Less Flavor Without Uno

IMG_1487by Steven Doyle        photos by James Gates

Last night on the latest edition of The Taste, local chef Uno Immanivong was booted from the program. I do not normally report on television and reality programs, but Dallas had a vested interest in seeing this particular chef win the big prize. We certainly cannot depend on the Cowboys for bringing home the honors. However, our local chefs seem to fare rather well on television, and Uno took the news in stride and now focuses on her new Trinity Groves restaurant, Chino, which should be open in a matter of a few short months.

Last night I stopped by the Sunset Lounge where the chef gathered a large handful of people to watch the program. This took a certain amount of grace knowing that within an hour the news of her demise would be revealed, but it was fitting to be surrounded by her Chino business partner and the rest of her long-time friends.       

For those not watching at home, the premise of the program is that there are four groups made up of industry and non-industry contestants led by celebrity judges, or mentors, who also coach the team members on to victory. Our Uno was on Anthony Bourdain’s team, and it was super apparent that he enjoyed her cooking. Last evening was all about offal and in the final challenge the judges both loved and hated her loving spoonful of fish collar soup dumpling with a crispy shrimp head. In the end Uno’s dish was judged as ‘not offal enough’, and she was asked to leave.

After the elimination I was on hand to console Miss Immanivong in conversation.

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I was watching the program with you and didn’t quite understand what happened. I thought you were about to win this thing.

It was so unfair. I wish I could cry, but I can’t. I already blew all that crying out when the show happened. After I took up smoking, and I don’t smoke. I cursed like hell and listened to Dave Matthews.

What did you do after the show?

I drove down the coast to San Diego with the other contestant that was booted off. Then we went to San Diego to see Erika Williams who was on the show, and we hung out at her castle. We cooked and enjoyed our time. The first thing I cooked was a Thai beef salad. We took a lot of food photos for Erika’s Hopeless Housewife web site. So we did that and spray tanned.

I was watching and actually thought you were going to win. You were picked as having the best and the worst dish, how does that happen?

I got both a red and a gold star, can you believe that? I don’t know how that happened. I thought I was going to win tonight. It is almost like being bi-polar. But I think I heard [Brian] Malarkey say that he was scared of me, and wanted to eliminate me.

In the end it came down to Lauren and I. Lauren made a braised beef cheeks. I made the soup dumpling.

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How can you braise beef cheeks in a short amount of time?

Well, we had two hours and we used a pressure cooker. Or at least I did to make my broth for the soup dumpling.

Love the Xiao Long Bao.

I do too, in fact I had some today at Royal China. But anyway, I paired the dumpling with a fried shrimp head, which to me is the quintessential offal.  I mean it has the eyes, the brains. When you eat that dumpling along with the shrimp head, you get this warm feeling go down… I didn’t think I would go home for that. No way.

I totally Macgyvered that soup dumpling, I made the broth and the gelatin in just two hours.

Would you put that on your Chino menu?

I would totally love to put a version of that on our menu, but we are about Asian and Latin so I would have to do a spin on the dumpling. Maybe a barbacoa steamed dumpling. You would have that moist pulled pork and the broth. I am totally inventing this as I speak.

DIANE DIMEO, NINAMARIE BOJEKIAN, UNO IMMANIVONG, ANTHONY BOURDAINcourtesy of ABC

Bourdain should be here drinking with you right now.

He tweeted me saying he would miss me, but I bet he is drinking somewhere tonight in my honor. You know, I am this huge foodie and I am totally enamored with chefs, but I respect him so much. For him it is not just about the food, but how the food came to be. Also, he can get a haircut from some random person in Vietnam, and it looks terrible but he still tips them.

What’s next?

I am focusing on Chino over in Trinity Groves and working with Phil Romano.  I have some more television stuff, and I am thinking an Asian spice line. That is on the horizon. I think Asian food is so under played. You go to the grocery store and we have four feet of coverage in the ethnic line.

Wait, what store are you going to? The store I go to has 90,000 feet of Asian products.

You are going to Super H Mart [laughs]. I love that place. I am talking Whole Foods and Kroger. But it is definitely underutilized and under-indexed. There seems to be such little expectation for Asian food, so I think if you make it good people will come. I am hoping I can do that, and people will enjoy my food.

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1 Comment

Filed under chefs, Steven Doyle

One response to “‘The Taste’ Has A Little Less Flavor Without Uno

  1. Mary

    Next time, please put “spoiler alert” in your post’s title. I really enjoy what you post – really, I do. But I haven’t watched this episode yet and it only aired last night. Seriously. Give me a few days or warn me first. Thank you. (And keep up the good work.)

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