|Orange County chef Hop Phan, left, appears on NBC’s “Food Fighters,” in Episode 208, Adam Richman, right observes his cooking techniques. GREG GAYNE , GREG GAYNE, NBC|
For one Orange County chef, the biggest take home from appearing on national television isn’t exposure or winning, but learning not to take himself too seriously.
“The shows really helped me to come out of my shell,” said Hop Phan, the Santa Ana chef behind the Latin-Vietnamese fusion cuisine of Dos Chinos taco truck and food stall in 4th Street Market.
“Before a certain point we were a little timid…but after [“Chopped”] I just didn’t care any more. I was going to do what I wanted to do.”
Phan will return to foodie TV again July 16 for NBC’s “Food Fighters,” after having appeared on the “Eat St.” “Cutthroat Kitchen” and “Chopped.” He is the second Orange County chef following Daniel Shemtob of the Lime Truck, to appear on the show this season.
“Food Fighters” pits home chefs against professionals in dish-by-dish contests.
“It’s a little different format, it’s very immediate,” said Phan of the contrast between “Food Fighters” and the other shows.
For the filming of “Food Fighters” episode 208, Phan faced off against 14-year-old Troy Glass, a former competitor from FOX’s “MasterChef Junior.”
“It’s really exciting for me to see how the younger generation is way better than us,” said Phan. “I can’t believe some kids start cooking at three or four, you know, it blows my mind. I didn’t start cooking until I was 19.”
Phan said that his decision to relax and have fun on TV came when a judge on another show gave him positive feedback on his dulce de leche walnut shrimp tacos. Up until that point, Phan had only offered the item as a special at his truck.
“I knew it was a good dish but I didn’t know how good it was until a famous chef tried it and said it blew his mind,” he said.
The shrimp tacos have since won top honors at competitions such as the Sabroso Festival in Santa Ana and the OC Weekly Taco Throwdown.
That boosted confidence also led Phan to put “stoner” fries on the menu of his food truck and stall.
Dos Chinos used to only offer the carne asada, roast pork belly, chorizo fried rice and fried egg covered “Stoner Papas” as a hidden menu item because of worries that some diners would assume Dos Chinos was run by “lazy stoners.”
“It turned out to be a good move because our stoner fries are one of our best selling things now,” said Phan.
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