- Age: 54
- Kansas City, Missouri
- Restaurant Concept: LIMBO - Sublime Diner & Paradise Lost Lounge
Sandra Digiovanni is known by her friends as "The Godfather" or "The Ringleader" because she has a lifetime of stories and likes to tell them. Digiovanni has been working since she was seven years old. She ran her mother's restaurant for 10 years and was inspired by working with a group of diabetics who wanted healthy versions of the food they loved. She began her quest to create a restaurant where heaven and hell collide in what she calls "Sublime Diner & Paradise Lost Lounge." The menu features two sections: Horn's, which includes unhealthy/over-the-top versions of a dish; and Halo's, which is the healthy version of that same item.
- Exit Interview:
What inspired your fast casual restaurant concept?
After I decided to get out of real estate, it was time to reinvent myself. I had to go back to my roots, my passion, and that was food. It started as a mobile kitchen that served sandwiches and expanded into a full-blown restaurant/lounge. Being a chronic dieter, I was tired of going out to eat with friends and being alone on salad island. So I wanted to create an environment where there are choices and lots of them. Where we can all sit down and enjoy a meal whether you're health conscious or not. Then I had to go back and tweak it to fit in the mode of fast casual. Not an easy assignment to do.
What was it like to make it to the Top 10 and compete on the show?
Livin' the dream baby! Livin' the dream! It was a heart pounding out of my chest and also an exciting, surreal experience all in one. I am grateful for the opportunity.
What moment or moments on the show were most surprising to you?
The most surprising was when the investors suggested I fire my original chef and hire another one. This was a big mistake on my part. I should have listened to my gut and heart and stuck with Rachel. It was also an interesting experience living in an apartment with the other contestants. Joey and Jamawn were like living in the remake of "Rocky." I called it "Rocky VIII" starring Joey as Rocky and Jamawn as Apollo.
What was the best part of your experience? Did it change you?
Has it ever! I have been sleep deprived since I started this journey. Very anxious about how I will be portrayed. But it has made me see and pursue my passion and all of my potential. I can actually see myself having my own restaurants and even my own show. My passion is on fire. I will never live any other way.
Did you make any lasting friendships and/or business relationships on the show? With whom?
Yes, I got to compete with an outstanding group of individuals. I especially liked who I call "the kids," Krystal and Greg of the Grill'Billies, and I can't forget my girl Harvard, aka Stephenie. I also think I had a good rapport with the investors and hope opportunities will arise in the future to work with them again.
Do you think you should have been eliminated? Did you agree with the investors' decision?
No, I think I should have gone further. However, I understand the investors' decision. It was a difficult concept to fit in a fast-casual mode.
Are you going to continue to pursue your restaurant concept?
Absolutely! Calling all investors! I would like to see my original concept come to fruition as sit-down restaurants/lounges. Notice that I made it plural. I have high hopes and big dreams.
Which one of your competitors' restaurants would you eat at regularly?
None. I generally don't eat fast food, only my own. But, if I had to, it would probably be Sud's Indian Restaurant or Grill'Billies.
What have you been doing since being on the show?
Working on several cookbooks and cocktail party books, as well as keeping my night job as a bartender. I'm getting ready to launch a couple of new blogs. I have also started a monthly fundraiser event to help local charities. Giving back is my truest passion.
What has the experience of being on the show taught you?
That it's never too late to reinvent yourself and have a second chance. That dreams can come true and hopefully mine will. It gave me the confidence to know that my ideas can breathe life. And as Donald Trump would say, "You have to dream anyway, might as well dream big." Do what you are put on this earth do, and do it with love and passion.