One of seven siblings, Chef Yia Vang was born in a Thai refugee camp where he lived until his family resettled in central Wisconsin. A trained chef who started his career working as a dishwasher, Yia uses food to tell a story and believes that every dish has a narrative. Through sourcing what’s in season and combining local traditions with those from his family and cultural traditions, Yia brings Hmong flavors to American palates and invites people to change how they think about food by considering the influences in each bite.
His vision for Vinai, his new restaurant concept, (slated to open in 2022 in Northeast Minneapolis) is to create a home for his Hmong food that celebrates his parents’ legacy and tells his family’s story through food. Yia is the host of TPT’s Relish series and has been featured on National Geographic and CNN’s United Shades of America. Among other accolades, he is a 2022 James Beard Foundation Best Chef Midwest semifinalist, 2022 James Beard Foundation Best New Restaurant for Union Hmong Kitchen semifinalist, was the cover story of the May 2020 issue of “Bon Appetit” magazine. Yia was also named MSP Magazine's “Chef of the Year 2019" and was recently voted “Best Chef 2020” in City Pages “Best-of” issue.