As the restaurant industry transforms and grows, there are some very exciting new things coming on the way. One of the harbingers of great things to come is the move confirmed today: Chef Diane Moa is leaving the Gavin Kaysen/Bellecour Bakery group to strike alone and open her first solo venue.
If you are not familiar with the speed at which an amazing pastry chef has become, and how to become a star star in the local Hmong community, then you need to catch up Feature by Dara For the New Dining Scene issue of last February.
I had a quick chat with Moua today, and while I heard shouts from a potential Moua bakery on Washington Ave. , it is currently not restricted to a specific space. “I’m touring places in Minneapolis. I love Minneapolis! I’m looking at many opportunities, I just want the right space.”
Don’t expect this to be a palace of crepe cakes. Moua’s first solo project will be an entire restaurant that pays homage to the food she grew up eating. “I want it to be about going back to my roots. I was raised traditionally, and I want to bring authentic Hmong food that I loved to others,” Li Moa told me. “My parents are very involved in this, they are very supportive of me. In fact, they have been stalking me and asking when I will open my space. My dad would say he would wash the dishes if he moved. My mom asks what she should plant.” The Moua family runs a farm in Wisconsin, which She informed much of her young life in the food business before receiving accolades as a pastry chef at La Belle Vie, then Spoon and Stable.
“It was a work in progress,” she recalls. “The whole family picks cucumbers, 15 or 25 cents a pound. You work all day until the family gets $300 or $400. I basically remember telling my mom, ‘I’m going to die of heat stroke.’” I need to go inside. My mom would say, ‘Oh my God, we do this every day. You’re fine.’ We weren’t allowed to go anywhere. No sleep, no friends. It was a work in progress. Helping the animals, ducks, cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits. Helping in the garden. Now it’s 11pm; wash your hands and go to bed.”
There was so much work, so little time or money, that the family often had no time for dinner, pairing fried chicken with rice and pepper. There was neither time nor money to buy dessert for this young pastry chef, except occasionally on a Sunday.
This restaurant will be a combination of some of Moua’s favourites, while serving traditional and authentic Hmong dishes. I asked what might be something on the menu to look forward to: “My mom makes great sesame balls, and I know how to make great sauces, so you’ll do what you do, and I’ll do what I do.”
Moa felt this was the right time to start. She had been working on the project for a long time, but she wanted to give him her full attention. “The transition has been really smooth. Carl, Mary and Gavin have all been very supportive. This is just the next chapter in my life and it’s time. If you had asked me five years ago, I would have said no. And I usually say that if I’m not afraid, I do nothing. Right. But I have a strong team of advisors and I’m really ready for that.”
The plan is due to be open in 2023, so stay tuned for news of the signed lease as it happens.
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