MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The wait to get into a popular Twin Cities restaurant may soon get even longer.

That’s because Ann Kim, owner of Young Joni in northeast Minneapolis just won the prestigious James Beard Award for best chef in the Midwest.

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“This is unbelievable because I am standing here and I never been something I thought could ever be in the realm of possibility,” Kim said. “Right now I’m still in a fog and really can’t believe it, but it’s quite an honor and I’m really going to try to live up to it if I can.”

It is an honor she didn’t take the traditional route to achieve.

“I grew up as an immigrant growing up in Minnesota with my grandmother,” Kim said.

She never went to culinary school or grew up in the restaurant business. Instead, she drew inspiration from her grandmother’s unique Korean cooking.

Ann Kim (credit: CBS)

“I grew up eating things that I was embarrassed about, that I thought smelled, that was funky, and now because of that people have embraced the things that once I was ashamed of and now I can put it into the spotlight,” Kim said.

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And now she hopes to see that spotlight continue to grow.

“I have a fourth restaurant up and coming that is going to be in the former Lucia space in Uptown, and we will have that opening up sometime fall or early winter,” she said.

Bringing more of her fantastic food to the many fans she has here in Minnesota.

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“I hope I can represent the Twin Cities and the state of Minnesota, and bring more people here to come visit because we have an immense amount of talent and people who are just as deserving,” she said.

If you don’t want to wait to get into Young Joni, you could also check out her other restaurants: Pizzeria Lola in south Minneapolis, or Hello Pizza in Edina.

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Two other Minnesotans won Beard Awards this year. Steve Hoffman took home a writing award, and Sean Sherman received the Leadership Award earlier this spring.

Lisa Meadows