MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota — Twin Cities pastry chef Diane Moua is used to working behind the scenes for some of the biggest restaurants. But now the acclaimed chef is stepping out on her own and going back to her roots to do so.
"When COVID hit... I spent more time with family," said Moua, a mother to two kids. "I went through a lot and kind of figured out what was my happiness."
Moua has always dreamed of opening her own restaurant but it goes beyond that.
"I'm Hmong and I really want to showcase that," she said.
Moua remembers being inspired by the bakery section at Lunds & Byerlys. She went to culinary school wanting to do cakes but then realized, "I didn't like doing cakes after I came out because I have no patience for it so then I got into fine dining and I loved it."
Moua was the executive pastry chef of Spoon and Stable and Bellecour in Wayzata. She has also worked at other notable restaurants, including La Belle Vie, Solera and Aquavit. Moua was the executive pastry chef for Bellecour Bakery when she announced last fall that she would be leaving at the end of the year to pursue opening her first restaurant.
The first half of 2023 has been full of learning the ins and outs of running a business.
"I'm going to be responsible for people's lives. I have two kids and sometimes that's a lot but I love taking care of people and I love the hospitality part of it. It feels really right," Moua said.
While there aren't too many details Moua is disclosing at this time, she said the goal is to open a restaurant in Minneapolis this year. She described it as an Asian bistro with lots of Hmong influences.
"What I can bring to the table that's different is my heritage of Hmong food and being able to incorporate that," Moua said.
Moua grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and some of the ingredients will come straight from her parents' garden.
"Being able to use things that they worked so hard on... My mom takes all the garlic at the end of the fall and she turns them into garlic oil, garlic chips," Moua said. "Being able to take lemongrass and freeze it so we have it throughout the winter. Being able to utilize things that I grew up on the farm with in the restaurant is really important to me."
The same can be said for her desserts.
"It's not just using Hmong desserts, but using the ingredients that I grew up eating," Moua said. "There's no reason why I can't use mustard greens and pork rinds on a savory Danish."
While Moua works to open her restaurant, she has held pop-up events. All of them have sold out. Orders are open now for her fourth pop-up which is for Mother's Day.
The menu that's available for preorder can be found, here. Orders will be accepted until Wednesday, March 10 at 10 p.m.
Moua said there is a chance this could be her last popup, hinting at future restaurant news, saying, "I can't speak a lot to it but fingers crossed that hopefully I will have good news soon."
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