We are Hmong. And in a Hmong household, the kitchen is the heart of the home.
No matter where we were or what we were doing, we could hear the voice of my mom, a little Hmong woman, yelling for us to come to eat. My parents believed in eating at the table together for dinner. It was a time to take a pause in our lives and connect with each other. Sometimes there wasn’t much to talk about, and sometimes that was the moment my father took to “address” behavioral issues. But, regardless, the table was a big part of our family life. We brought our concerns and questions to the table. At the table we connected with each other and shared a meal.
Food is how we share our lives with each other and our welcome guests. Combining local traditions with those from back home, Union Kitchen will bring Hmong flavors to American palates – and forge a new expression all our own.
“You can say that I was meant to be a cook — it was something I was ‘destined’ to be. My name, Yia, when translated in my native language (Hmong) literally means ‘iron skillet or frying pan.’ Food has been a large part of my life, and no matter what I’ve done in life, I’ve always come back to the dinner table as a gauge for understanding my worldview.”
“As a 2nd generation Hmong-American, the identity crisis of finding which culture I belonged to stressed me as I grew up. I didn't have a country I could point to on a map to make it clear as to where my people are from. The beauty with food is that it doesn't have any borders, just like the Hmong people. Union Kitchen has taught me that Hmong people are culture cultivators and we adapt to our community. As a Hmong-American, I'm able to forge the future of my culture, and I believe the perfect tool for that is food.”
Chris was born and raised in the East side of St. Paul. After high school, he pursued a degree in accounting from the University of Minnesota Duluth. While in UMD, he found a love and passion for cooking by making dinner for his roommates and friends. After graduation, he began his career in Accounts Payable at 3M, but after a taste of the corporate world there was another taste lingering in the back of his heart…his passion for cooking. He left his office job and started working as a line cook by night and pop-up business owner by day.