Tonight, Bravo will air the finale of Top Chef where Casey Thompson, Dale Levitski, and Hung Huynh will compete for the grand prize in Aspen. Though he is considered to be the strongest chef technically, Hung has only won one elimination challenge. He has, however, pulled off four wins in the quickfire challenges. He has been criticized by the judges for not showing enough of himself in his food. He feels that he has been passionate about his work and is clearly the strongest chef there. Surprised to be in the finale with Casey and Dale, Hung promises that, tonight, he’ll show his best work to date. Today, he took a few minutes before the live finale to talk to BuddyTV.
Below, you will find the complete transcript and mp3 of the interview.
Hey everybody, this is Gina and I’m talking to one of the finalists on Bravo’s Top Chef, Hung. How ya doin’?
Fine, thank you.
It was really interesting when Tom started asking you guys why you were so passionate about being in the competition. You talked a lot about your family and growing up around food … can you talk a little bit about your background and your family?
Yeah, well, after the war in Vietnam everyone was starving to death and my dad was in the army, so he had to escape a re-education camp or be locked up for life. So he had to escape when I was a couple months old, along with two of my brothers and my uncles and all that stuff. One of my other brothers had escaped with my other cousins and they went to Australia, so that leaves one of my other brothers and I and my mom back in Vietnam. We were left behind, and my whole family was separated the whole time … for like nine or ten years. I didn’t meet my other brothers and my dad until I was 9 years old, like 8 or 9 years old.
My dad and my brothers came to America with nothing, nothing. Not even welfare. And now I’m given this opportunity to live in this country and I’m going to take full advantage of the opportunity that it has to offer, that’s what really drives me. Really, you only get a total of one hour of me with all the shows combined total and they think they know me, they think they know my life, they don’t! They don’t know what drives me and I’m glad I have a chance to talk about it now, you know?
Yea, your family must be so proud of you because you really are living the American dream. What’s your family’s reaction been since they’ve been seeing you on the show?
They’re really proud. They’re really happy that I didn’t make a fool out of myself. I do really have a deep, deep passion and I’m glad they get a chance to see what I really do, meaning, professionally. Working for french chefs … and that’s why I’m sacrificing myself all this time. I’ve been out of my house since I was like 16 or 17 years old, still going to high school, but still holding like two jobs at like really prestigious places. That’s how passionate I am about what I do and that’s how much I want to compete. I mean, you’re given one gift if you’re lucky in this world and I’m gifted with this talent and I want to use it to the full experience.
Prior to being on the show, how long had you been cooking in Vegas?
Well, I left just 7 years ago, and I thought I would never, ever, ever come back to Las Vegas but 7 years later, here I am. there was a position open for Guy Savoy and I’ve been here for a year and a half almost.
There’s a lot of chefs who have been on the show from Vegas. What is it about the food there that makes it really stand out?
There’s a lot of great chefs out here and good restaurants out here. I think the biggest is it has the most variety of restaurants outside of New York. A lot of talent out here. A lot of people with passion, you know, and good restaurants.
As you watch the episodes of the show, how do you think that you did in the competition throughout?
I think I had a lot of fun, first of all, and some challenges didn’t really let me shine as a professional chef. People that are home cooks or just mediocre cooks or caterers can do those challenges really well, but me … I was thinking about things professionally so I think I didn’t do as well as I wanted to I guess. When I came back for the Finale, I was much more calm, much more calm. I’m a calm person, and then I could really focus on what I wanted to do and in the finale I was able to let my food shine.
Yeah, you’re in the finale with Casey and Dale, are those the two people you expected to be with at the end?
Oh no. No no no no no. It was Tre and then maybe Lia. Other than that, no, I didn’t expect any of them. But Casey you know, she’s good you know, I was surprised. People were judging me way to hard. Chef Tom saying I’m technically the best chef but I don’t have soul. Lets think about this: technique is what’s involved in cooking as a craft …to make a good craft, you need to have good technique. It’s the way of doing something. What does Chef Tom make a million dollars off of? Craft. So I don’t know how people are criticizing me for having great technique. You know, how to get where I am today takes passion. When’s the last time anybody went to a restaurant and said ‘Oh, the food sucks, but I taste the soul in it.’
Now you get to go to Aspen for the finale or you did go to Aspen, had you ever been there before?
No, I hadn’t. It was a beautiful place.
You were able to take your own things with you to help you cook for the finale, right?
What did you end up bringing with you?
I brought things that I like to eat, a lot of Asian ingredients.
So the judges were on your case saying that you didn’t make enough Asian food or they didn’t see you in the food that you made, will we get to see more Asian food in the finale?
Yes. You’re going to get to see pork, wonton soup … I mean c’mon!
The Finale of Bravo’s Top Chef airs tonight at 10 o’clock and I just wanted to wish you good luck.
Thank you very much.
– Gina Scarpa, BuddyTV Staff Writer
(Image courtesy of Bravo)