She was kicked off The Taste (go here for our recaps) way too early, but don’t fret: Uno Immanivong is preparing to take Dallas by storm. The brains behind boutique food company Foodie Couture is awaiting the opening of her new restaurant, Chino, in June and already has a second restaurant and a run at Top Chef on her mind.
Christina Colavecchia: This is so sad, but you were kicked off The Taste a week ago. How did you deal with that?
Uno Immanivong: You know what, there’s a way to leave and that was probably the best way. It wasn’t on a bad note; it was a little controversial so I left with my head high for sure. This sounds kind of quirky but I felt very privileged to be there. It was an honor to make it as far as I did coming from doing this part time as a passion and growing my company to what it is today, and I’m really proud of where I came from. That’s just the way the cookie crumbles, as cliché as that sounds. You can’t control everything. We cooked the best we could. I don’t think I would change anything that I had created.
CC: What was the best part of being on the show?
UI: Working with Anthony Bourdain. He’s just amazing. In March of 2012 I went to go see his Guts and Glory Tour with Eric Ripert in Austin and I was in the audience asking questions in the Q&A portion of the sitting. I would have never thought that by the end of the year, fast forward six months, I would be working with him in a studio in L.A.; that was a surreal moment. Being able to really pick his brain and see how he works and to realize that, as much as you love food, you’re still a human being. He’s still a father, he’s still a husband, and that’s something I aspire to hopefully have one day.
CC: What’s next for you? Tell me more about Chino.
UI: Oh, so many things! I’m actually going to sign my paperwork for Chino [today]. We’re going to take pictures in front of our spot and I’m so pumped about opening up Chino because it really is a collaborative operation between my partner [Adrian Berdin] and I. It’s interesting because we’re doing a food truck on Saturday and making some of our Chino inspired tacos and really testing what people think about them. We did the pop-up early in February and it’s still an ebb and flow, we’re still creating as we go. We’ll see what the next couple of month’s holds but hopefully some good food comes out of this.
CC: Are you planning on doing any more TV?
UI: This is way out there but in two more years after the restaurant opens, I would love, love, love to do Top Chef, to represent Dallas and really win it. I think I have a lot to learn still. I mean there were some really great chefs in the kitchen with me on The Taste. I learned from watching them. I learned from Chef K, which is Khristianne [from The Taste] who is Charlie Sheen’s personal chef, and just really watching everybody else. Once the restaurant opens I plan on transitioning from my mortgage job into the food world and really learning more and understanding more of what I don’t know.
CC: Will you include any dishes you made on the show on Chino’s menu?
UI: We’re creating the menu as we go. I know my food, and my partner is Latino, so we’re collaborating on the menu. Each month we’re doing something to kind of test the food out on our guests to get their feedback and figure out what we want to definitely put on the menu. I’d love to put some stuff I did on The Taste on there, but it’s more Asian-heavy, so we can add some Latin ingredients into that and refine it a little bit more. You’ll probably see a lap gai on there or a steamed bun of some sort.
CC: Is Dallas ready for a restaurant like Chino?
UI: I think so. There’s a restaurant in New York City called Zengo and it’s Asian-Latin fusion and they do really well. I think that [Chino] won’t be as upscale as that. It’ll be more approachable. It’s Asian and Latin food fused together, and when you think about when the Chinese immigrants migrated to South America, they really had to refine and use ingredients that were there. They had to change the Chinese street food that they created at home and add more of a Latin flare. I think [Dallas is] ready.
CC: Did growing up in Dallas have any effect on your cooking/ love for food?
UI: Absolutely. Dallas has the most restaurants per capita. There’s more art and culture these days in Dallas but before, going to college here and growing up here, it was just eating and drinking pretty much. Now, if I’m able to fuse those two things and have a good place to eat and a good place to drink, together it would be awesome. I’m actually working on another restaurant that will hopefully be in Trinity Groves, too. It’ll be something a little different than Chino but it’ll have some good cocktails to go with it. It’s going to be a seafood place.
CC: What do you love most about the food culture in Dallas?
UI: I like the fact that there’s handcrafted cocktails that go with the food. One of my favorite restaurants is Cedars Social. I love the fact that I can go in there and it’s kind of laid back. Off the Bone and Chicken Scratch are awesome. I love that I can go to Tei Tei Robata Bar and there’s the same people that go in there every time. I go in and it comforts me and it’s not pretentious. There’s just a huge variety of food and it’s good. I just got back from Seattle last night and all I did there was eat seafood. There’s probably a lot of variety but all I did was hit the seafood hotspots. Here in Dallas I just know where I can find certain things I crave. This is home.
Christina Colavecchia graduated from York University in Toronto, Canada in May 2012 with a degree in Professional Writing and Humanities. As a Canuck living the U.S. for the first time, she’s loving the Dallas lifestyle and all the city has to offer.