Youth Farm produces more than just food. Through summer and school-year programs available for ages 9 to 24, it cultivates young leaders: responsible, essential community members who know how to grow healthy foods and why it's important to do so. In five Minneapolis and St. Paul neighborhoods, participants begin as Youth Farmers, 9- to 11-year-olds, who get their hands dirty in the soil and learn the basics of transforming what they grow into nutritious dishes. From there, they grow into All Stars, Project LEAD members, and finally Farm Stewards, all while building their skill set and becoming increasingly engaged in the distribution of what they grow.
That last aspect is another integral part to the Youth Farm programs. Not only do participants build a community among themselves, they also serve the community that surrounds them. During the summer program, Youth Farm families receive full grocery bags of vegetables every week of the eight-week program. And this can add up fast. In 2013 alone, Youth Farm's 800 participants distributed more than 10,000 pounds of produce and prepared more than 12,000 healthy meals.
Kitchen Window, much like an extravagant meal, is the product of combining simple ingredients with elaborate culinary techniques. The original store was no more than 1,200 square feet, containing a small demonstration kitchen and modest, yet high-quality, collection of kitchen utensils. The staff's dedication to their craft brought customers through the doors, and as word grew of the shop, so too did its offerings; small demonstrations became cooking classes and the stock of cooking equipment grew. Today, Kitchen Window spans 20,000 square feet of space, which contains not only 16,000 products and two cooking-demo stations, but also an outdoor classroom with more than 20 grills where students can practice preparing steak and marshmallows. Instructors inside the cooking school lead dozens of culinary sessions, from basic knife-skills classes to deep-dish baking sessions and grilling expos.
Local D?Lish's owners Ann and Yulin Yin source all their food from more than 200 farmers throughout the Midwest. But the inspiration for their business came from their time spent living in China. Each morning they'd go down to the market to get fresh meat, produce, and tofu directly from farmers. As they got to know each farmer, they came to understand and trust the processes by which their food was produced. That experience also stuck with them when they moved to Minnesota, where their journey inspired them to recreate that market experience and start up Local D?Lish.
Above all, they help their customers connect with their food and understand where it all comes from. Beyond carefully curating the foods on their shelves and deli counters, they host in-store events where farmers and customers can meet and greet. They even lend space for cooking classes and demos that help students identify seasonal produce and turn it into delicious meals by following simple instructions such as "Take a bite, chew, and swallow."
When she’s not hosting radio shows, serving meals at local shelters, or blogging for Minneapolis St. Paul magazine's Foodie File, Le Cordon Bleu–trained chef Marianne Miller helms Saga Hill Cooking & Events. She describes her style as "audacious, yet feminine," adding, "my preparations are often bold, but with a light-handed approach that brings out the natural flavors in each dish." Alongside her staff, she leads culinary classes and parties that shy from incorporating fad kitchen gadgets or diets. Instead, their goal is to teach practical, science-based cooking techniques that can help students prepare simple meals, gourmet treats, or decadent brown-bag lunches.
After cooking at her family's restaurant for 20 years, Nina Wong struck out on her own with Chin Dian Caf? in 2005. Her new restaurant swiftly accumulated loyal fans, who'd crowd the dining room ordering their favorites and sampling dish after dish. And while it's not uncommon for diners to request to-go bags for their leftovers, at Chin Dian Caf?, servers started reporting something unexpected: customers wanted to take home bottles upon bottles of Chef Wong's sauces. Her signature ginger syrup got raves, her black stir-fry sauce was applauded, and her dumpling sauce was poured into handbags by the spoonful.
Chef Wong heard their enthusiasm?and answered it by creating her own line of syrups and sauces. But the more ambitious home chefs among her fan base were still not satisfied and wanted to learn her recipes. That's how she came to open Nina Wong Cooking Studio, where she now teaches enrollees to craft spring rolls and other dishes in her hands-on classes.
Chef Antonio Cecconi was born in Sardinia and learned to lovingly craft traditional Italian fare from his mother. Dive teeth first into a three-course vegetarian feast, which begins with a garden salad, then takes forks for a spin around bow tie pasta laden with crisp vegetables and a choice of marinara, rosa, or mushroom alfredo sauce. Freshly baked Italian rolls accompanies eating escapades, and the meal comes to a dazzling finish with a choice of chocolate-covered strawberries or cream-filled profiteroles drizzled with chocolate sauce. Carnivores can request meat for an additional charge, while all diners can peruse The Italian Gourmet's gallery for a sneak peak of the sumptuous feast and a rare rendition of the Mona Lisa painted in marinara sauce.