Yia Vang on 'Iron Chef'

Minnesota Food on TV

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Yia Vang on 'Iron Chef' / Netflix
Food & Drink // Article

Minnesota Food on TV

By Erica Wacker

Minnesota — known for signature dishes like the “Juicy Lucy”, and upping the ante with innovative food trucks and farm-to-table fare — has been leaving its mark on food-centric TV shows for years. The Travel Channel, Food Network and Netflix have all filmed episodes at dozens of restaurants around the state, showing the world what dining here is all about.

Here is just a sampling of Minnesota eateries and chefs, as seen on TV.

"Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives"

Chef and host Guy Fieri hits casual local favorites on this Food Network series, and has visited many spots in Minnesota

In northeast Cloquet, Gordy’s Hi-Hat has been serving hand-pattied hamburgers, homemade onion rings and made-to-order milkshakes for more than 50 years. In nearby Duluth, Fieri sampled cranberry wild rice French toast at At Sara’s Table/Chester Creek Cafe, smoked fish at Northern Waters Smokehaus and bison pot roast and banana cream pie at Duluth Grill.

He’s also featured many hot spots in the metro area, including Donatelli’s in White Bear Lake, a couple Juicy Lucy competitors (The NookThe Blue Door Pub) and Andale Taqueria & Mercado, a Richfield favorite located near the Mall of America and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Fieri also highlighted Pizzeria Lola eight years before chef-owner Ann Kim (see also: Sooki & Mimi and Young Joni) appeared on a special pizza season of the hit Netflix series "Chef's Table". 

"Bizarre Foods"

Longtime Minneapolis resident Andrew Zimmern loved to tout his state’s delicacies on his longtime Travel Channel show, which focused on unusual eats from around the globe. On one Minnesota-centric episode, he manned the kitchen for a night at the now-closed Haute Dish in Minneapolis, tasted guinea pig from Hola Arepa when it was still just a food truck and had a heady meal at the innovative Travail in Robbinsdale.

In others, he featured the famous Ingebretsen’s Scandinavian market in Minneapolis, Hmong vendors at several different St. Paul markets, Betty’s Pies in Two Harbors, My Sister’s Place in Grand Marais and the Minnesota State Fair.

"Man V. Food" 

Though Adam Richman’s Travel Channel show focuses on places offering extreme eats — like insanely hot chicken wings and five-pound burritos — he also visits other noteworthy eateries. In the Twin Cities, his stops have included local favorites Punch Neapolitan Pizza and Brasa Premium Rotisserie.

At Gasthof zur Gemutlichkeit in Minneapolis, Adam ate a meter-long bratwurst with sides. He also visited Rack Shack BBQ in Burnsville for The Hobo (meat, potatoes and side dishes all in one skillet) and Tin Cup’s in St. Paul for its Lucifer Challenge (two Juicy Lucy burgers with two pounds of fries).

"No Reservations"

On his “Heartland” episode, Anthony Bourdain spent time with chef Doug Flicker at the now-closed Piccolo in south Minneapolis, which served seasonal and artfully presented small plates. The James Beard Awards made Flicker a semifinalist for Best Chef: Midwest several times. He now mans the griddle at his elevated dive bar Bull's Horn.

"Heartland Table"

Food Network filmed two seasons of this cooking show in the cabin of chef Amy Thielen. She grew up in Park Rapids and worked under renowned chefs Daniel Boulud and Jean-Georges Vongerichten in New York City before returning to moving back home to north-central Minnesota. While her series was short-lived, Thielen has written several books, including "The New Midwestern Table," the memoir "Give a Girl a Knife" and the upcoming cookbook "Company: The Casual Art of Cooking for Others." 

"Girl Meets Farm"

Similar in spirit to "Heartland Table" is Molly Yeh's popular Food Network show, which sparked its eleventh season in 2022. It captures what it was like for the food blogger/author to move to the fifth-generation farm of her husband Nick Hagen after the two met at Julliard. The couple recently opened their first restaurant in East Grand Forks, the laid-back breakfast and lunch spot Bernie's.

"Top Chef"

The 11th season of this Emmy-winning Bravo show featured a chef from the Twin Cities for the first time: Sara Johannes, the executive chef at Shoyu, a modern Japanese noodle and sushi shop in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport

More recently, St. Paul chef Justin Sutherland made waves on season 16 with inventive Southern dishes and a magnetic personality. Sutherland didn't become the Top Chef, but his stint on the show did help him springboard a newfangled food empire across St. Paul,  including his flagship restaurant Handsome Hog.  

"Iron Chef: Quest for an Iron Legend"

Union Hmong Kitchen owner Yia Vang competed in Netflix's "Iron Chef" reboot against world renowned chef Gabriela Cámara of the Mexico City mainstay Contramar. He lost the chili pepper battle but said the show made him feel like a kid again. "When I saw the Iron Chef we had to battle against," he said in a Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tribune story, "I freaked out. It was such an honor to be there.”

"Food Wars"

Minnesota's infamous Juicy Lucy — a burger stuffed with ooey, gooey cheese — was the subject of a "Food Wars" episode on the Travel Channel. The burger battle pitted Minneapolis' Matt's Bar against 5-8 Club, both of which claim to serve the best version of this local icon. Matt's (which calls their original recipe a "Jucy Lucy") ultimately won the blind taste test.

Bon Appétit did a similar online segment of "9 Juicy Lucy Cheeseburgers in 9 Hours." Its winner? The Nook! 

Erica Wacker

Erica Wacker is a Midwesterner through and through, growing up in Illinois, going to college in Wisconsin, and settling down in Minnesota. She loves to run, travel with her family, and go to concerts to relive her youth.