MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A team of local chefs is serving up a lesson in tolerance through food and drink.

“Minnesota Rice” is an initiative that’s trying to end racism against Asian Americans by sitting around the dinner table.

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You buy in for $100, and then all throughout May, you will be emailed links to videos of creators showing you how to make specialty Asian dishes and drinks.

Yia Vang, head chef and owner of Union Hmong Kitchen in St. Paul, is one of the seven participating in “Minnesota Rice.”

“Food is this catalyst into, you know, bringing people together, and in these videos as you watch, you’re not only learn a recipe or learn a dish, you actually see into the lives of these chefs and these drink makers and what inspires them,” Vang said.

He says the mission of this initiative is simple: Love us, just like you love our food.

Another participant of “Minnesota Rice” is Jonathan Janssen, the bar manager of Brother Justus Whiskey Company. He will be teaching people how to create a soy ginger Old Fashioned.

“I love the notion that every single culture in the world, independently of each other, has figured out a way to make alcohol,” Janssen said. “I think that’s something that really unites the world.”

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(credit: Yia Vang)

Janssen was born in South Korea, and was adopted by his Minnesota family when he was 2-and-a-half years old.

“When it comes down to it, like I’m very Minnesotan, but I still look the way I do and that has shaped my life experiences,” Janssen said. “For me personally growing up, I had to deal with lots of micro aggressions, and some outright hatred.”

Following the recent shootings of Asian-owned Atlanta area spas and the spike in Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic, these Asian-American creators hope this initiative can spread awareness and hope for a better future.

“What we’re trying to do is we’re … trying to show people hope. That fear comes in, but hope wins at the end,” Vang said.

One-hundred percent of the money raised from ticket sales will go directly to the Coalition of Asian American Leaders of Minnesota (CAAL), which helps create laws and legislation that protect Asian-Americans from hate crimes.

Other participating chefs and bartenders:

  • Christina Nguyen of Hai Hai and Hola Arepa
  • Ann Kim of Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza, Sooki and Mimi
  • John Ng and Lina Goh of Zenbox Izakaya
  • Ann Ahmed of Lat14 and Lemon Grass
  • Dustin Nguyen of Tres Leches

Click here to buy tickets. You can also buy an Asian-inspired apron by Minnesota Rice sponsor Craftmade Aprons.

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Click here to learn more about Minnesota Rice.

Marielle Mohs