Chef Uno Immanivong of Chino Chinatown is known for her TV appearances, including a stint on “The Taste” with Anthony Bourdain. And now that she has a high-end (albeit very approachable) restaurant at trendy Trinity Groves, she hasn’t forgotten where she came from.
Ultimately Uno’s food journey was inspired by her mother who catered to make ends meet. Uno observed the art of creating every dish, along with the happiness that resulted from each bite. The kitchen is where Uno spent most of her childhood, learning and understanding Southeastern Asia ingredients while cooking with her mom. Chino Chinatown’s menu is a result of Chef Uno’s passion for cooking and her Latin twist on classic Asian dishes.
Immanivong says many of the recipes at Chino Chinatown, including No. 1 seller the duck-fat fried rice, were inspired by her childhood. Her mom ran a catering business on the side while young Uno was growing up, and she says she used to help her mom cater Lao and Thai weddings for as many as 300 people.
Immanivong ran a bakery, Foodie Couture, for years while also working full time supervising about 500 customer service representatives in Wells Fargo’s home mortgage division. Even though she traveled a lot and worked long hours for that job, running a restaurant is a much bigger job, she says.
“It’s so much more work,” she says. “It never stops. I thought I would be in the kitchen all the time creating these wonderful dishes, but there’s so much more to it than that.”
Chino Chinatown is rewarding, she says, because she feels like she’s “giving back” by offering a piece of herself to the world. She’s still inspired by her mom, who often appears in the Chino Chinatown kitchen. But most of all, she says, she does it for her 10-year-old daughter.
“I want to show her that hard work pays off,” she says. “You can have anything you want if you work for it.”