Each year, restaurants, chefs, and restauranteurs from around the country are honored at the James Beard Awards ceremony. The 2024 ceremony took place earlier this week in Chicago where tons of deserving people took home awards, including one Minnesota chef.

ALSO READ: Nationally-Acclaimed MN Pizza Shop Plans 2nd Location

What are the James Beard Awards?

The James Beard Awards' goal is "to recognize exceptional talent and achievement in the culinary arts, hospitality, media, and broader food system, as well as a demonstrated commitment to racial and gender equity, community, sustainability, and a culture where all can thrive."

Restaurants nominate themselves, their chef(s), and/or their restauranteur for a James Beard Award. Then, throughout the year, anonymous judges try the restaurants. WCCO writes that each nominee is "reviewed for the food as well as for a behavioral code of ethics, including how employees are treated."

After the judging, the finalists are revealed. After more deliberation, the winners are announced at a ceremony honoring all of the finalists for that year.

Best Chef: Midwest James Beard Award Winner 2024

This year, a Minnesota chef took home the award for Best Chef in the Midwest. Her name is Christina Nguyen and she's the owner and chef at Hai Hai. She also owns Hola Arepa, but Hai Hai is the restaurant she won her award with.

Hai Hai is a restaurant in northeast Minneapolis that serves Southeast Asian street food. When I learned about this award I went on my phone to save the restaurant as a place I want to go. Turns out, I had heard of this place before because I already had it saved! Now I'll DEFINITELY have to check it out.

106.9 KROC-FM logo
Get our free mobile app

Christina shouted out many people in her acceptance speech, according to Eater Twin Cities. This included her husband and business partner Birk Grudem to whom she said, "'I can’t imagine anybody else that I would want to do this with — thank you for fixing everything that breaks in restaurants.'"

She also gave a shoutout to her parents who came to the US from Vietnam as refugees. She said, “'They had to start their lives over from scratch when they moved here with no warning, and they’ve taught me that anything is possible; to not be afraid.'"

More About Hai Hai

Hai Hai means 'two two' in Vietnamese. The reason for the name is a nod to the building's infamous past life as a dive bar and strip club called 22nd Avenue Station (aka Deuce Deuce).

Google Maps
Google Maps

On the Hai Hai website, they write that the restaurant "will shine the spotlight on some lesser known delicious regional dishes, along with new & original dishes using the Southeast Asian palette of flavors."

Christina did an interview with WCCO a year ago talking all about Hai Hai that you can check out below. And below the video you can take a look at all of the restaurants in Minnesota that Guy Fieri has visited on 'Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives'! I think he needs to visit Hai Hai now.

Every 'Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives' Episode that Features a Minnesota Restaurant

One of the most popular shows on Food Network is easily 'Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives'. Guy Fieri has come to Minnesota for many episodes. Here are the ones that feature Minnesota restaurants.

Gallery Credit: Carly Ross

More From 106.9 KROC-FM