Now, the celebrated local chef behind Young Joni, Hello Pizza, and Pizzeria Lola holds one of the highest honors in food: She was recognized Monday night as winner of the Best Chef: Midwest category of the James Beard Awards.
"My journey has not been easy, it has not been linear, it has not been conventional," Kim said in her acceptance speech. "I’m standing here b/c 10 years ago I said 'fuck fear.' If my work has made a traditionally narrow path a bit wider, a bit more inclusive, that will be my greatest achievement."
Kim was one of three Twin Cities chefs who was a finalist in the category, along with Jamie Malone (Grand Cafe, Eastside Food + Drink) and Christina Ngyuen (Hai Hai, Hola Arepa). Last year, it was Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable (and now, Demi) who took home Best Chef: Midwest honors.
In the Strib's write-up on the night, they note that Kim is the sixth Twin Cities chef to be named Best Chef: Midwest after Tim McKee (La Belle Vie, and currently Octo Fishbar) in 2009, then Alex Roberts of Restaurant Alma in 2010, Isaac Becker (112 Eatery) in 2011, Paul Berglund (then the Bachelor Farmer, now Rochester's Fiddlehead Coffee Co.) in 2016, and then Kaysen in 2018.
That makes her the first woman in the Twin Cities to get it, to which we say, again: hell yeah.
And Kim wasn't the only local to take home a win, either. We already knew that Sean Sherman, the Sioux Chef, would receive a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award, and Minnesota-based writer Steve Hoffman was victorious on the media side for his lovely Artful Living essay "What is Northern food?"
You can watch Kim's acceptance speech in full below, and you should... it'll make you want to happy-cry something fierce. And don't forget: Soon, she's opening a Mexican restaurant in the old Lucia's space.