WELCOME TO THE TABLE
Stories Behind the Menu is a culinary journey with a celebratory heart.
Alongside a series of inspiring chefs, we invite you to experience the stories of diverse cultures — creating conversations that feed understanding and nourish communities.
MATEO MACKBEE, KREWE
February 9th, 2023
Chef Mateo Mackbee, co-founder of Krewe, developed a deep love for New Orleans’ culture as he spent the summers of his youth watching his grandfather cook for family and friends throughout the city. A native of Bloomington, MN, Chef Mackbee heeded the call to follow the family tradition of nourishing appetites and feeding souls in 2008, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Using those old and much-loved family recipes of his grandfather’s, Mateo is passionate about using farm-fresh ingredients to create delicious, satisfying food in the New Orleans tradition, including dishes like muffuletta, jambalaya, gumbo, and more.
MILISSA SILVA, EL BURRITO MERCADO
May 11th, 2023
From humble beginnings in Aguascalientes, Mexico. In 1979, with minimal education, mostly street smarts, and plenty of vision and faith, Millissa's parents, Tomas & Maria Silva, took over a small 800sq ft market and converted it to El Burrito Market, dba El Burrito Mercado, offering only dry Mexican groceries and tortillas.
Tomas & Maria expanded El Burrito Mercado into a family legacy with their three children, Milissa, Tomas and Suzanne. A St. Paul mainstay offering a unique Mexican, Latino marketplace experience, El Burrito features specialty groceries, cooking spices & peppers including fresh produce, unique meats, a full deli, restaurant, cantina, catering, food truck, imported gifts & home decor. In 2016, Tomas and Maria Silva retired and passed their beloved business on to their daughters, Milissa and Suzie, and their grandaughter, Analita.
YIA VANG, UNION HMONG KITCHEN
September 28th, 2023
One of seven siblings, Chef Yia Vang was born in a Thai refugee camp where he lived until his family resettled in central Wisconsin. A trained chef who started his career working as a dishwasher, Yia uses food to tell a story. Through sourcing what’s in season and combining local traditions with those from his family and cultural traditions, Yia brings Hmong flavors to American palates and invites people to change how they think about food by considering the influences in each bite.
His vision for Vinai, his new restaurant concept, (slated to open in 2023 in Northeast Minneapolis) is to create a home for his Hmong food that celebrates his parents’ legacy and tells his family’s story through food. Yia is the host of TPT’s Relish series and has been featured on National Geographic and CNN’s United Shades of America. Among other accolades, he was the cover story of the May 2020 issue of “Bon Appetit” magazine. Yia was also named MSP Magazine's “Chef of the Year 2019" and was recently voted “Best Chef 2020” in City Pages “Best-of” issue.
Starting with Chef Yia's event, Stories Behind the Menu events will be held at Mosaic in Minneapolis! We are so excited to welcome you to this awesome venue!
HEATHER JANSZ, THE CURRY DIVA
Dec 7th, 2023
Growing up in the tropics of Sri Lanka, Heather dreamed of bringing the exotic spices and tropical flavors and tastes to the rest of the world. Moving to Minnesota in the 1970s, Heather was advised against serving such exotic fare. Nonetheless, she opened the award-winning Sri Lanka Curry House Restaurant, and later, the Curry Leaf Deli in St. Paul. She’s been delighting Minnesotans with her mouth-watering cooking and community building initiatives ever since!
CHAZ SANDIFER & JULIE BURTON, FOUNDERS
Chaz Sandifer of theNEWmpls and Julie Burton of ModernWell present Stories Behind the Menu— a journey through food and storytelling. By bringing people together to break bread and bridge the cultural divide among people of different backgrounds, races, religions, Sandifer and Burton, a Black woman and a Jewish woman, aim to promote racial health, equity and inclusion, and bring healing and restoration to communities and society as a whole. Utilizing the stories of how food traditions developed in various cultures creates a deeper understanding and respect for one another, allowing people to embrace our commonalities and celebrate our differences.