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Ann Kim Is the James Beard Awards 2019 Best Chef Midwest

The Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza, and Young Joni chef takes home the food world’s top honor

Ann Kim wearing a black and white striped shirt and blue apron leans on a chair, one hand on her hip inside the dining room at Young Joni
James Beard Award winning chef Ann Kim
Katie Cannon / Eater Twin Cities

Ann Kim, the Korean immigrant, Columbia-educated, former-actress turned pizza maven has just won the James Beard Award for Best Chef Midwest. Kim arrived in Minnesota with her family, moving to Apple Valley in the 1970’s, went to college in New York before returning to the state and eventually working as an actor with the Children’s Theater Company. In her emotional acceptance speech she shared her unconventional journey, “if my work has made what has been traditionally narrow path a little bit wider, a little bit more inclusive, than that will be my greatest achievement.” and “We cannot be what we cannot see.”

Kim and her partner Conrad Leifur first opened Pizzeria Lola, named after their dog, in South Minneapolis in 2010. The two had stumbled into success, born of an obsession with pizza and an ill-conceived plan to run a Jimmy John’s franchise. As Kim detailed, in a now famous tweet, she had planned to dip a toe into restaurant ownership by first becoming a franchisee of the popular sub shop, but instead decided to go all in on her passion for a neighborhood pizzeria.

That first restaurant, which still boasts wait times and lines, is a neighborhood touchstone where photo booth images of evolving families line the walls.

Two years later Hello, Pizza opened with New York style slices and a Korean Cowboy sandwich that’s one of the great all-time meals found between two pieces of bread.

Part of Kim’s success has been mixing in Korean flavors, like the Lady Zaza a pie made with kimchi, Korean sausage, chile and sesame.

All of these experiences culminated in the opening of Young Joni, an Eater Best New Restaurant selection. The blending of pizza and small plates wowed customers and critics alike. The back bar speakeasy serves innovated fun drinks. The restaurant design blends rustic artistry with Wisconsin cabin chic.

This was Kim’s second nomination for the Best Chef Midwest Award. She now joins fellow local winners of the distinction, Isaac Becker, Tim McKee, and Alex Roberts.

Disclosure: Some Vox Media staff members are part of the voting body for the James Beard Foundation Awards

Hello Pizza

3904 Sunnyside Road, , MN 55424 (952) 303-4514 Visit Website

Young Joni

165 13th Avenue Northeast, , MN 55413 (612) 345-5719 Visit Website

Pizzeria Lola

5557 Xerxes Avenue South, , MN 55410 (612) 424-8338 Visit Website

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