The Most Meaningful Animal Yia Vang Cooks On Feral - Exclusive

You're about to see "Iron Chef" contestant Yia Vang go daredevil. As host of the Outdoor Channel's "Feral," the James Beard-nominated chef hunts down wild hogs and scuba dives for venomous Lionfish. Don't worry — he went there first. "I feel like Aquaman," Vang says in the preview. "Spoiler Alert: he also endured a python bite during filming. "I was trying to hype myself up a lot. It's not that I'm scared of snakes, but the last thing you want is some 70-foot creature around you," Vang told Mashed in an exclusive interview.

On the surface, "Feral" is probably exactly what you think it is. Vang, with the help of experts in their fields, hunts down feral species that threaten their local ecosystems and makes beautiful meals out of them — be they snakes, fish, or pigs. On another level, as Vang explained to Mashed, "Feral" was much more than an opportunity to cook unusual, but delicious animals. The show was deeply personal to the Hmong chef.

"The first thing I said to the executive producer Patrick McMahill was, 'Dude, this show is so Hmong, it's not even funny,'" Vang told Mashed. " We're going to go into the wild, we're going to go into the woods, the jungle, into these waters, these streams, and we're going to find creatures, and we're going to hunt them down, harvest them, and then we're going to cook them over fire. I'm like, 'This is what Hmong people do.'" Not only that, it gave him an unexpected opportunity to connect with his dad. 

Yia Vang's ancestral connections to iguana hunting

When Yia Vang told his dad about his show, he could relate immediately. "I told my dad, 'Hey Dad, we're going to hunt iguanas,' and I showed him," Vang recounted exclusively to Mashed. "He was like, 'Oh yeah, as a boy, that's what we hunted in the jungles of Laos.'" The way you'll see Vang cook the iguanas on "Feral" is a recipe he borrowed from his father. Given how difficult his father's childhood was, a happy connection meant more to Vang than you might think. 

"After the war, Dad didn't talk much about his childhood ... By the time he was 13, he started fighting for the Americans in the Vietnam War, in Northern Laos. He didn't have a childhood growing up," the chef explained. " He didn't play T-ball. He didn't talk about going fishing with his dad, how every American kid has that. In this one moment, when I'm cooking iguana, in Florida, and I connect with him, it's like, 'This is part of dad's childhood, and I get to be a part of it.'" 

Vang's father appreciated the episode, too. "I went home, and I showed him the episode, and I showed him the pictures, and he sat there, and he giggled and laughed, and said, 'That's like a Tuesday for us growing up as a boy,'" Vang said. "It was the first time I really heard him talk about growing up as a boy, these happy memories." 

Yia Vang's new show, Feral, premiers November 28 on the Outdoor Channel.