If you watched tonight's The Taste, featuring Dallas' own Uno Immanivong, then you know that -- spoiler alert -- she was eliminated.
If you didn't catch the episode, you missed some testicle pokes and quite a bit of drinking. You missed oxtail (my favorite of all the offals) and pig's blood. You missed Anthony Bourdain wielding a vibrating reciprocating saw. You missed some heavy foreshadowing by Immanivong herself. And you likely missed a good, old-fashioned scream of "WHAAAAA!?!?" after the judges eliminated Uno for her fish dumplings with crispy shrimp head, which was apparently not offal enough for the judges. But the beef cheek prepared by another contestant was? W.T.F? How in the world is beef cheek more "offal" than fish and shrimp heads?! The world may never know.
Anyway, in the wake of "the most controversial elimination of the entire show" I secured an exclusive interview with Immanivong, just before her watch party at Sunset Lounge. Here's what she had to say.
Tell us the short version of what went down on the show. [The] episode was all about offals ... from nose to tail. Our guest mentors were the chef/owners from Joe Beef in Montreal; they are known for their chalkboard, [so we were challenged to make] whatever we feel like creating from the wild game and fowl menu. The mission was to use off cuts of meats like bull testicles, tripe, pig ears ... toe nails ... it was free game. For the team challenge I made a pig's tail and tripe menudo with a ginger fish sauce and my spoon was selected to represent the team. Unfortunately, Gregg's spoon was selected again so he won immunity and the advantage of having the guest mentors in his kitchen. During the individual competition, I decided to make a fish collar soup dumpling with a crispy shrimp head. To me shrimp heads are quintessential offals, it has the eyes, brains and guts. I ended up in the hatch for the first time last night for receiving ... a gold star from Anthony, and an inherited red star that was actually intended for Gregg (lucky me). The judges listened to our stories and it came down to Lauren Scott, who made braised beef cheeks, and me. I was sent home because I "didn't embrace the challenge." I'm speechless and disappointed in the outcome.
Why do you think the offal challenge was so ... awful? It's so ironic that the larb gai spoon that got me on the show highlighted offals (minced kidney, heart and liver) and I get sent home for a challenge that was all about those nasty bits.
Tell the truth; how much cursing went on during and after the show? I think they moved the show from 7 to 8 because of all the cursing... Ludo, Anthony, Diane... we never know what's coming next.
And how many boxes of Kleenex did you go through? Forget the tissues, I wanted to take up smoking (and I don't smoke), listen to some Dave Matthews, drive and curse.
Dave Matthews, eh? So typical. Well, what did Bourdain say to you after you were eliminated? It was such an awkward elimination; I was awkward. Anthony gave me a big hug and said he would miss my presence and food. During the wrap party, he asked what was next? At that point I wasn't sure. Hopefully he's reading this and it puts a smile on his face. I'm following my culinary dream and looking forward to having him at Chino's soon.
I hope he reads it too! What was the best piece of advice you heard on the show, from Bourdain or anyone else? Two things --- From Anthony: If you open a restaurant, get investors. Your food speaks for itself. From Nigella: If you decide to open a restaurant, start with a pop-up and entice people with your cooking. Done and done.
Besides you, of course, who do you think should win it all? The two chefs I love and adore made it to the finals. My lips are sealed.
Cheeky. Well, now you have more time to focus on Chino, right? What else is next for Uno? Besides Chino, I'm working on a few food projects, some more television and an Asian spice and equipment line.
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That's a lot of things! What was your favorite dish you cooked on the show? My favorite dish was the one that got me a spot on Anthony Bourdain's team! Lucky chicken will forever hold a special spot in my heart, it's the humble spoon that changed my life.
Any wise words for home cooks thinking about getting into reality TV? Dream big. Anything is possible with lots of hard work, tenacity, authenticity and love. I have failed so many times and each time I dust myself off and try again. One of my favorite quotes is, "The best way to predict the future is to create it." Together we can create a better future for ourselves and others.
Immanivong may have been eliminated, but she's far from through. Look for her new restaurant, Chino, opening soon in Trinity Groves.