As the restaurant industry shifts and grows, there are some very exciting new things coming down the road. One important harbinger of great things to come is the move that was confirmed today: Chef Diane Moua has departed the Gavin Kaysen/Bellecour Bakery group to strike out on her own and open her first solo spot.
If you are not up to speed on the amazing pastry chef, and how she has become of a bit of a superstar idol in the local Hmong community, you need to catch up with the feature that Dara wrote for last February’s New Dining Scene issue.
I got a quick chat in with Moua today, and while I had heard rumblings of a possible Moua bakery on Washington Ave., she is currently not tied down to a specific space. “I’m touring spaces in Minneapolis. I love Minneapolis! I’m looking at multiple opportunities, I just want the right space.”
Don’t expect this to be a palace of crêpe cakes. Moua’s first solo venture will be a full 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 so traditionally, and I want to bring the authentic Hmong food that I loved to other people,” Moua told me. “My parents are very involved in this, they are very supportive. In fact, they have been hounding me, asking me when I’m going to open my own space. My dad has been saying that he’ll wash dishes if I just get moving. My mom is asking what she should be planting.” Moua’s family runs a farm in Wisconsin, which informed much of her young life in food before she earned accolades as the pastry chef at La Belle Vie, and then Spoon and Stable.
“It was nonstop work,” she recalls. “The whole family picking cucumbers, 15 or 25 cents a pound. You work all day so the family can get $300 or $400. I mainly 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 sleepovers, no friends over. It was nonstop work. Help with the animals, the ducks, cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits. Help with the garden. Now it’s 11 o’clock at night; wash your hands and go to bed.”
There was so much work, and so little time or money, that often the family wouldn’t even have time to make dinner, pairing deli fried chicken with rice and pepper. There was no time or money for dessert for this young pastry chef, except occasionally on a Sunday.
This restaurant will be a blend of some of the Moua favorites, while bringing in authentic and traditional 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 she’ll do what she does, and I’ll do what I do.”
Moua felt this was the right time to start. She’s been working on the project for a long time, but wanted to give it her full attention. “The transition has been really smooth. Karl, Marie, and Gavin have all been so supportive. This is just the next chapter in my life and it’s time. If you would have asked me five years ago, I’d say hell no. And I usually say that if I’m not scared, I’m not doing something right. But I have a strong team of advisors and I’m really ready for this.”
The plan is to be open in 2023, so stay tuned for news of a signed lease when it happens.
October 18, 2022