An exclusive and inspiring interview with Chef Ann Kim
We’ve partnered with Minneapolis’s Local Crate meal kits to create an exclusive vegetarian meal made by the ever popular Ann Kim, chef/owner of Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola, and Hello Pizza. Here she tells us a little more about her world and her new Kimchi Fried Rice dish.
How did you get your start in the restaurant world?
I entered into the restaurant profession very non-traditionally. I never cooked professionally or received any formal culinary training prior to opening my first restaurant, Pizzeria Lola. For nearly a decade prior to opening Pizzeria Lola I worked as an actor, appearing on stage at Mixed Blood Theatre and as a company member at Children’s Theatre Company. I always loved to cook, and saw a demand for an elevated pizza place. At the height of the recession my partner, Conrad Leifur, and I saw an opportunity and decided to take a risk and open Pizzeria Lola.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a female entrepreneur in the culinary space?
I think in the beginning I was nervous that people in the industry wouldn’t take me seriously because of my lack of experience in the profession vs. being a female chef/entrepreneur. In general, I’ve never let my gender get in the way of anything I wanted to pursue in life. It’s something my parents instilled in me at a very early age that I could accomplish anything if I put my mind to it, had drive and worked hard. I’ve always had a bit of a competitive spirit with a creative edge. I push myself harder than anyone else so the biggest challenge is my perfectionist self, always feeling like nothing is ever good enough. I’m doing my best to balance this side of myself by being more present, mindful and grateful for what I’ve accomplished. As an entrepreneur
in the culinary/hospitality industry it’s easy to constantly be on the go, but I realize how important it is to pause and reflect on both the highs and lows so I can learn and grow as a leader. I’ve also learned the importance of self care, because I’m no good to anyone if I’m not emotionally, physically and mentally healthy.
How do you gain inspiration for creating new dishes?
I gain culinary inspiration from all sorts of things. I love to travel around the globe to experience new flavors and cultures. I might taste a new dish and that might spark a creative idea for how I can incorporate that into a menu item at one of my restaurants. I also pull a lot of inspiration from my own history and upbringing as a Korean immigrant raised in Minnesota. You’ll see a bit of Korean influence on the menu at each restaurant. I’m also very inspired by the seasons and what’s fresh and local. There’s nothing like eating a fresh peach when they’re in season or a ripe tomato straight off the vine. I honestly believe that some things should only be eaten when it’s at the height of freshness because eating a tomato in January is just not the same in Minnesota. That’s why we only offer the fresh tomato pizza using local tomatoes in the summer time. Guests love this pizza and have requested that we offer it year round, but it just wouldn’t be the same pizza in the winter with lesser tomatoes. I’ve built a strong following and a trust with my guests and it’s important that I deliver delicious food with integrity and quality in mind.
What does ‘local’ mean to you, and how does it impact your life?
I try my best to use local/seasonal produce whenever possible because I believe it just tastes better — I always let my tastebuds be the judge. To me it’s always about the highest quality ingredients whether they’re local or imported like Parmigiano Reggiano. Obviously this cheese isn’t “local” but there’s nothing better; there is craft and integrity behind the tradition of making that cheese and you can taste it. In the end, I do believe the decisions we make about food reflect the kind of world we want to live in.
What makes this kimchi fried rice recipe special to you? Why did you decide to partner with Local Crate to offer this dish?
The kimchi fried rice is special because it’s one of my favorite childhood dishes that my mother used to make. It’s delicious and brings back fond taste memories for me. It’s also very simple to make and nutritious. I love that people will be able to experience the flavors of Korea and kimchi, a staple of the Korean diet by making this dish through the Local Crate meal kit. A lot of people find Korean cuisine to be intimidating to make, but this recipe and the way it’s packaged through the meal kit will make it very accessible to individuals looking to venture into something new, vegetarian and so, so delicious! You get your carbs, protein, umami and probiotics all in one meal! I love that co-op shoppers will get a chance to make this dish because I believe your shoppers look for all of these elements in a good dish.
What’s your favorite lazy weeknight meal?
I rarely cook at home these days, but when I do it’s usually something that’s quick and simple. One of those dishes is a simple roasted salmon fillet with soy and ginger (or whatever fish is in season and fresh), rice and roasted seasonal vegetables.
WEDGE & LINDEN HILLS EXCLUSIVE
Young Joni’s award-winning kimchi fried rice is made with a white and black rice blend and stir-fried with sautéed bok choy, kimchi, buttered peas and topped with a soft, sunny side up egg.
The Kimchi Fried Rice meal kit is available exclusively at the Wedge Lyndale and Linden Hills Co-op starting in late September in the Local Crate coolers, and in our hot bars later this fall.