Christina Nguyen and Birk Grudem got into the restaurant business piloting a food truck around downtown Minneapolis. The truck was turquoise, before that color became the “it” restaurant hue. The food wasn’t familiar to Minneapolis (not a huge Venezuelan population here clamoring for arepas.) And the chef, Nguyen, didn’t have any formal culinary training. What they did have was unrelenting drive, incredible taste, and the ability to predict what a hungry population wanted before the rest of us even had an inkling.
From those early days on the food truck, to their big Young Guns win to yesterday’s recognition of Hai Hai as one of the best new restaurants in America, we’re looking back at their rise to culinary stardom.