Meet Yia at our Annual Member-Owner Meeting & Celebration
Lately, Yia Vang of Union Kitchen has had an active presence in local media platforms and at well-respected food establishments throughout the Twin Cities. Over the past two years, he’s taught a series of Southeast Asian cooking classes at The Good Acre, hosted now-legendary pop-up dinners at Cook St. Paul and Lowry Hill Meats, and developed expertly crafted dishes for home-meal-kit service Local Crate. Co-founded by local chefs Yia Vang and Chris Her, Union Kitchen is a full-service culinary enterprise centered around Hmong American food. According to Vang, Hmong food is not limited to specific geographical products, places, or produce. Rather, it is a cooking philosophy that has been shaped by historically nomadic habits, a strong cultural connection to living off the land, and building family bonds through this relationship. Inspired by Hmong migration throughout Southeast Asia, Southern California, and the Upper Midwest, Hmong American cooking is a combination of regional cuisines, cultures, food traditions, and culinary techniques.
Born into a refugee camp in Thailand, Yia immigrated to the U.S. with his parents in 1988. Growing up as a child in Wisconsin, his parents made a concerted effort to cook family meals based on their Hmong traditions and share them around the table to nurture familial bonds. No matter how tight the household’s budget, serving nutritious, home-cooked food remained a top priority. Today, Yia credits his parents’ sacrifices and unconditional love as providing him with the necessary means to pursue cooking as a career. Through Union Kitchen, Yia shares these lessons learned in hospitality, love, sacrifice, and affection with others. He describes this work first and foremost as an homage to his mother, and a way to educate people about the historical context of food.
What makes Yia’s contribution to the local culinary scene unique is his ability to seamlessly weave together amazing food, storytelling, humility, and humor into an intimately engaging experience. Yia’s presence fills a room, not simply because of his stature, but by virtue of his passion for utilizing food as a gateway to larger conversations regarding culture and community. “Every dish has a narrative. Our cultural identities are woven through the stories told by our food,” says Yia. This vision is apparent in Union Kitchen’s practices and offerings, which reach above and beyond the simple act of cooking to an elevated level of cultural empathy and understanding.
Annual Member-Owner Meeting & Celebration
Thursday, October 25 | 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Midpointe Event Center | 415 Pascal Street N., Saint Paul
Guest speaker Yia Vang will discuss how every dish has a narrative that tells the story behind our cultural identities. Afterwards, enjoy a delicious Hmong-inspired meal prepared by this famed local chef.
Annual Meeting Dinner Menu
Presented by Union Kitchen
Grilled Yaki Skewers
Featuring three varieties: Tamarind BBQ chicken, Hmong Sausage and tofu skewers.
Fresh Lettuce Wraps
Featuring red lettuce, pickled carrots, jicama, cucumbers, Thai basil and herbs.
Vermicelli Noodle Boxes
Featuring fun-fun noodles with roasted root veggies, mushrooms, Tiger Bite sauce, and Mama Vang’s hot sauce.
Mississippi Market Made Desserts
*Gluten-free and vegan options available.