Join Uptowne Café in celebrating our fifth chef from the Chef’s Story series! He comes to us from the Twin Cities! Originally from La Crosse, where he developed his affinity for the culinary before moving to the Twin Cities to grow his skills before founding Union Kitchen MN
Yia started his culinary career, at the young age of 15, working as a dishwasher and prep cook at a racetrack food stall in Central Wisconsin. After high school, he attended the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and honed his skills as a grill cook at a local Italian diner. Throughout his college career, Yia began to fall in love with the intricate flavors of barbeque and smoked meats. This landed him a job at a smokehouse where he developed a skill for combining subtle flavors to create an impactful dining experience. This skill would later prove useful in his foray into fine dining. After college, Yia moved to the Twin Cities, where he became a manager and corporate chef for a large catering group. Through this period of growth, Yia yearned to reconnect with the reason he fell in love with food and left the corporate world to take on the role of kitchen coordinator at a large church kitchen. During this time, Yia was able to interact and develop personal relationships with people while gathering over a shared interest –food. This led him to explore the Twin Cities culinary scene while working at local establishments around town. Inspired by the shifting landscape of food and armed with 16 years of experience, Yia sought to find his own voice in the culinary world. As a result, Yia founded Union Kitchen MN, a pop-up restaurant committed to building cross-cultural bridges, uniting people and food, and creating community.