Apple Valley native and James Beard Award-winning chef Ann Kim creates common ground with global flavors.
To say Ann Kim is an accomplished restaurateur is an understatement.
The James Beard Award-winning chef owns three popular restaurants in Minneapolis—Pizzeria Lola, Young Joni, Sooki & Mimi (soon to be reimagined as Kim’s)—as well as Hello Pizza in Edina. She also partnered with Omni Hotels to develop the menu for Kyndred Hearth in Eagan. In 2022, she was featured in episode three of Netflix’s Chef’s Table: Pizza, and based on the feedback she received, viewers were as inspired by her candid honesty about the journey to becoming a chef as her inventive pizza. “I got messages from all around the globe,” Kim says. “People felt seen and heard for the first time. The message of acceptance and being valued resonated with a lot of people.”
Her menus are filled with bold flavors, inspired by her Korean upbringing and global cuisine, and her restaurant dining rooms feel both sophisticated and welcoming. That same energy—a very strong point of view and an inclusive spirit—seems core to Kim’s personality.
And success hasn’t made her complacent. Instead it has inspired her to continue innovating. In early October she plans to close Sooki & Mimi, and reopen the space as Kim’s.
The new restaurant, which is scheduled to open in mid-October, will feature a Korean American menu, deeply rooted in Kim’s heritage and personal culinary journey. “This is the restaurant I’ve always wanted to open but was too afraid,” Kim wrote in August on an Instagram post annoucing the restaurant with a throwback picture of her as a child at the dinner table with her family. “The cuisine that was once a source of shame is now a source of pride, and I can’t wait to share my version of it with you.”
Kim was born in Korea and immigrated to the United States in the late 1970s, spending her first couple months in Burnsville before her family settled in Apple Valley, where she attended kindergarten through 12th grade. “I would say it was relatively peaceful,” Kim says of growing up in Apple Valley, noting that it was still a newer suburb with mostly farmland and some housing developments when she was a child. “It was sleepy, but I got an incredible education,” she says.
The exceptional academics, coupled with strong extra curricular programs, helped her develop creativity that has served her well in adulthood. “There was commitment to really great teaching,” Kim says. “Outside of academics, they fostered extracurricular activities.”
She still remembers the specific teachers and small acts of kindness that inspired her. Kim described herself in fifth grade as a “chubby, latch key kid” with secondhand clothing. On a day when she was not feeling very cool in her cat sweatshirt, her fifth grade teacher, Carol Kopnick, leaned in and told her how much she loved her sweatshirt. “Little messages like that go a long way,” Kim says, adding that she’s never forgotten that moment of feeling seen and valued.
Kim’s parents spoke Korean at home, and she was constantly working to bridge two cultures—honoring her Korean heritage while also trying to fit in with American friends at school. “Back then, Apple Valley wasn’t as diverse as it is now,” she says. “There was not even an Asian market to go to.”
Kim remembers striving to do her very best in school at all times. “As an immigrant child, you feel extra pressure to succeed and achieve,” she says. “I pushed myself a little harder.”
In high school, Kim participated in theater, speech, debate and student council. She credits her speech coaches, Joni Anker, during her freshman and sophomore years, and Pam Cady Wycoff, in her junior and senior year, as helping her develop her public speaking skills.
After getting cast in a play during high school, Kim fell in love with theater, and that passion has inspired her throughout her adult life. She credits her theater experience for helping her think on her feet and developing her creativity. “Storytelling is an important part of who I am,” Kim says.
After high school and college at Columbia University in New York, Kim returned to Minnesota and acted professionally for eight years. After she left the stage, Kim continued to tell her story through her food, opening Pizzeria Lola in South Minneapolis in 2010. The restaurant quickly built a following with its pizza with punchy flavors and inventive combinations involving kimchi and sunny side up eggs.
After finding success with Pizzeria Lola, Kim continued to open new restaurants: Hello Pizza in 2013, Young Joni in 2016 and Sooki & Mimi in 2021. And her latest venture, Kim’s, will continue her story, paying tribute to the journey that led to her success.
Get a taste of Kim’s cuisine at Kyndred Hearth in Eagan. Kim partnered with Omni Hotels to develop a menu for the restaurant, which opened two years ago. The restaurant in Viking Lakes is open for dinner and offers pizza from a wood-fired oven and handmade pasta, as well as salads, sandwiches, steak and pork belly. Like the food at Kim’s own restaurants, dishes are packed with flavor, and many of the pizzas are made using the same recipes from Pizzeria Lola and Young Joni.
“The food is craveable,” Kim says. “It’s something you can eat daily, but it’s also celebratory.”
2611 Nordic Way, Eagan; 651.689.9850