Hai Hai’s Christina Nguyen wins Best Chef Midwest at James Beard Awards

Christina Nguyen, a Minneapolis chef known for her restaurants Hai Hai and Hola Arepa, gained recognition Monday night as one of the top chefs in the region.

Nguyen won Best Chef Midwest at the 2024 James Beard Awards ceremony Monday night in Chicago.

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“There’s no walk-in to cry in,” she joked as she took the podium to accept the honor.

Nguyen praised the staff at her restaurant, her husband and her parents, who fled Vietnam “with no warning” to seek refuge in the United States.

“Thank you to the James Beard Foundation for recognizing the value of immigrant food,” Nguyen said. “When we started our restaurants, the most a Southeast Asian restaurant could hope for was ‘Best Cheap Eats,’ and I feel like we’ve come a long way.”

She is the most recent Twin Cities chef to win a James Beard award, joining local culinary luminaries Ann Kim (Young Joni), Sean Sherman (Owamni) and Gavin Kaysen (Spoon and Stable), among others.

Ann Ahmed of Khâluna in Minneapolis was also nominated for Best Chef Midwest. Meanwhile, Oro by Nixta in Minneapolis was a finalist for Best Restaurant.

A full list of James Beard Award winners is available here.