The conversation surrounding food and why it matters has reached a level of importance that I don’t think we could’ve predicted a decade ago. That’s in part thanks to TV shows like Netflix’s Chef’s Table that help share the stories of some of the world’s most beloved chefs and the food they make with an international audience. For its newest season, the streaming giant focuses on pizza, making Minneapolis icon Ann Kim (known for eateries like Pizzeria Lola, Young Joni, and Sooki & Mimi) an obvious fit for an episode. (In fact, it would have been a crime to not include the James Beard Award–winning chef.)
“The process actually began over two years ago, when executive producer Brian McGinn messaged me on Instagram asking if I’d be interested in being featured in the next season of Chef’s Table,” says Kim. “I thought it was a joke or spam, so I initially ignored it until he tracked me down after finding my email. I’m glad he was persistent! The filming was originally scheduled to begin in the summer of 2020 but was postponed due to the pandemic.”
“Zia was stuck under lockdown restrictions in New Zealand right before she was scheduled to fly to Minneapolis to start filming,” Kim recalls. “It was a bummer not to have her physically present, but I trusted her and the entire production team to capture my story in a thoughtful and authentic way. I have yet to meet her in person, but I hope that day will come soon. It was eye-opening to see the amount of work it takes to build one 45-minute episode.”
That episode is nothing short of a revelation, showcasing Kim’s passion for making good food and outlining what inspired her to build the pizza empire we all know and love today.
“Pizza is joy,” Kim tells us. “Pizza in its very essence is meant to be shared. I think that’s one of the main reasons why I love making pizza so much. It naturally unites us, because it’s truly the one food that just about everyone loves. I can’t think of a more perfect food than pizza.” And we can’t think of a more perfect person than Ann Kim. Here are 4 takeaways from her Chef’s Table episode, now on Netflix.
At the very start of the episode, Kim shares that while growing up there were very few examples of Asian American women finding their own success in the United States for her to look to. And as a Korean American woman born to immigrant parents, she recognized early on she was very different from most of her Minnesota peers. “If you give people the freedom to just be themselves, some amazing things can happen,” proclaims Kim. This sentiment has been a major driving force throughout her life and career, and has pushed her to become one of the loudest and most authentically flavorful chefs in the Midwest.
Food is Generational
If you’ve ever dined at one of Kim’s eateries, you know that kimchi is always on the menu. “Kimchi is life,” she declares, explaining how her mother and grandmother played an integral role in helping her develop an understanding of food and encouraging her to trust her gut when it comes to her own tastes. Throughout the episode, Kim reflects on where she comes from and how this has shaped her menus and the ingredients she uses in all her food (especially her pizzas, which led her to open Pizzeria Lola and eventually Young Joni). Her restaurants are a love letter to her heritage, her parents and all that’s happened throughout her life.
Life is a Highway
After attending Columbia University in New York City, Kim moved back to Minneapolis to pursue acting. She started auditioning throughout the vibrant Twin Cities’ arts scene and ended up booking a gig that turned into a full-fledged profession. After working for a while, Kim realized she was being typecast in roles, with some directors even thinking she was “too Asian.” Ultimately, she left the craft behind without a clear plan for what was next. Her husband encouraged her to consider cooking as a profession because he saw her at her happiest whenever she was creating in the kitchen. And look where she is now: Kim is not just running a restaurant empire; she’s changing the way we think about the American experience.
Ann Kim Did the Pickle Pizza First
Boasting one of the longest lines at this year’s Minnesota State Fair, Rick’s Pizza made a shining Great Minnesota Get-Together debut with its new Pickle Pizza. But let it be known that Kim did it first! Need evidence? In the episode, there’s a shot of Kim with a fellow chef in Young Joni’s kitchen crafting her beloved Pickle Pie topped with Old Dutch Crunch potato chips (a variety that makes an appearance every now and again on the restaurant’s menu). Case closed.