Chef Kim Gamble represented her Thai culture and her hometown of Livermore in the "Flamin' Hot" episode of the Food Network series "Chopped" last week.
In a spicy food competition against three other chefs, Gamble was among the last two standing before ultimately being eliminated.
The Lanna Thai restaurant owner told Livermore Vine that although this was her second time appearing on a competitive cooking show, "Chopped" was the most intense experience she's had so far.
"Each round I feel like gets harder and harder and just more intense and all the pressure is on you in that 20 or 30 minutes," Gamble said, adding that her nervousness was visible on the show by her facial expressions that were frequently caught on camera in the episode that aired nationally on March 7.
The judges told Gamble when she was "chopped" that -- although the challenge called for bringing the heat -- the dishes she prepared were too spicy, making them too difficult to eat.
However, Gamble said she doesn't plan on toning down the spice level in her cooking any time soon as it's what her Lanna Thai customers are accustomed to and is part of the Thai culture's style of cooking.
"I think everyone has different spice levels -- some people can eat spicy and some people can't handle it. Maybe mine might have been a bit overboard, but I feel like people in Livermore can handle the spice that I make because that's what Lanna Thai is known for and the dishes that I made on the show is the spice level that we use at the restaurant," Gamble said.
In the week after the show aired, Gamble sampled a slightly modified version of the appetizer she made on the show at her restaurant. The dish was a spicy, crab dumpling with a filling made from cream cheese and cut up Thai chili peppers and coated with crumbled "spicy cheese curls" (also known as Flamin' Hot Cheetos) on the outside. She also added a cucumber salad on the side with a spicy Thai vinaigrette dressing.
The only difference in the version she served at the restaurant was removing the cut up chili peppers from the filling of the dumpling.
While Gamble was ultimately happy with the way the appetizer turned out, the decision to make the dumpling on the show was actually sparked from having to make a last-minute pivot in the interest of time.
She had initially planned to make a fried crab Rangoon but one of the other chefs occupied the shared deep fryer for too long, leaving Gamble with virtually no time to use it for her own dish and prompting her to ditch the Rangoon idea and go with dumplings instead.
Since the show aired, Gamble said she's received an outpouring of support from the Livermore community and encouraging words from people who watched.
She expressed during the episode that if she had won the $10,000 prize, she would have used it to travel and film culinary vlogs for her YouTube channel. While she didn't get to bring home the money, she said she still plans to launch her channel and share food and cooking related content.
"I'm planning to show traditional Thai cooking at home with local ingredients you can find at local grocery stores," Gamble said, adding that she still wants to travel to Thailand and document herself learning new dishes from people there but for now her YouTube show will have a more local focus.
She's also considering a Thai cookbook in the future and possibly hosting cooking classes for the community at her restaurant with her mom. And, she said if she's presented with other opportunities to be on the Food Network in the future, she'd be open to that too.
At Lanna Thai, customers will be able to find Gamble's spicy crab dumpling appetizer and lamb spicy curry noodle entree from the show on the regular menu available to order. The restaurant is located at 2270 Las Positas Road in Livermore.
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