Local chefs raise awareness of anti-Asian hate with 'Minnesota Rice'

‘You can't just take the food and not the people. You have to care about the people behind the food, too.’

Chefs Christina Nguyen and Yia Vang
Chefs Christina Nguyen and Yia Vang of Minnesota Rice
Courtesy of Minnesota Rice

Minnesota’s Asian American chefs and bartenders have a message for their non-Asian clientele: “Love our people like you love our food.”

That’s the tagline of a new collaboration between eight chefs and bartenders in the Twin Cities. They’re raising awareness and money to combat racism against Asian Americans through a virtual cooking masterclass called “Minnesota Rice.”

For $100, aspiring chefs can stream seven instructional videos that will teach viewers how to prepare Asian dishes. All earnings will go to the Coalition of Asian American Leaders.

“We're having some really amazing chefs and bartenders from the Twin Cities … They're going to share some of their favorite dishes and drinks with you, and just kind of talk a little bit about themselves,” said Christina Nguyen, a chef at Hai Hai and Hola Arepa in Minneapolis, in an interview with All Things Considered host Tom Crann. “This is connecting people with their food, and with the people who make it.”

The instructors are:

  • Christina Nguyen of Hai Hai and Hola Arepa

  • Yia Vang of Vinai and Union Hmong Kitchen

  • Ann Kim of Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza and Sooki & Mimi

  • John Ng and Lina Goh of Zenbox Izakaya

  • Ann Ahmed of Lat14 and Lemon Grass

  • Dustin Nguyen of Tres Leches

  • Jonathan Janssen of Brother Justus

Minnesota Rice is a response to the March shooting in Atlanta in which eight people, including six Asian American women, were killed, and the national conversation about xenophobia that it spurred. Despite what happened last month, many people don’t believe racism against Asians is real, Nguyen said.

“With all of the anti-Asian racism that's been happening lately, and the killings in Atlanta, elderly people getting beaten up in the streets, it's been weighing really heavily on the Asian community,” she said.

It’s easy to go to an Asian restaurant and not think about the people behind the meal you’re eating.

“There are so many people who think that just eating Asian food or going to a restaurant and loving a bowl of pho is the same as loving the people behind it,” Nguyen said.

“I think that the message here is you can't just take the food and not the people. You have to care about the people behind the food, too.”

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