The subject line of the email from Scott Maanum read “Re: Fw: “LeeAnn Chin Buffet-Style Alumni” sent you a message on Facebook... I was impressed a portion of the Lee Ann Chin restaurant chain alumni had formed a Facebook group.
Suddenly, I was saddened to learn that LeeAnn Chin, the iconic
Minnesota Public Radio, the Star Tribune, and Mpls-St.Paul Magazine each did a wonderful piece on the woman who began as a seamstress and evolved into the restaurant business. Her story is far from typical, but not that extreme for restaurant owners who fell into the trade. The entrepreneur’s customers were so enamored with her Chinese dumplings, egg rolls and other authentic dishes she created for them when entertaining her clients, many recruited her to cater events they held. As her popularity soared throughout the Twin Cities her thoughts focused on the restaurant world. With a bit of encouragement from food enthusiasts she opened her first restaurant. Under her watchful eye the chain grew, was sold to a corporate conglomerate, they took heir eye of the ball and the dumplings, she bought it back and built it to forty locations. Quite a feat for an immigrant from
And that talent contributed to her success in the restaurant business. It’s was all about detail for LeeAnn. Her food was as detailed in her early days, as were the stitches she used to create and alter fabric. And as she modernized the way Asian food was presented and prepared for
I might not have been as successful in beginning my venture if it were not for LeeAnn. Both Scott Maanum and Sharon Becknell were both LeeAnn Chin employees who helped my partner Kranston and I whenever we stumbled, tripped, fell and scraped our knees and elbows for whatever reason. They encouraged our expansion form a twenty seat general store to a 50 seat Bistro, a small bakery and eventually a larger property.
Both Maanum and Becknell walked through the fires of expansion hell with us and didn’t flinch. They had been on the front lines before and had the ability to create, cook and prepare for capacity overbooked crowds and events.
Think about it- who would be better to join your staff than a chef or kitchen manager that worked in a high volume, Asian kitchen where every dumpling, egg roll, pot-sticker, or shrimp skewer had to be prepped, rolled, and created by hand. All 4000 of them.
When Maanum and Becknell arrived at the Cottagewood General Store for Wednesday night spaghetti and meatball dinner, 100 meatballs was something they could prep on their coffee breaks. By the time we had opened The St. Alban’s Boathouse, with it’s 350 plus seats LeeAnn’s work ethics, and procedures, structure and policy had become apparent to us through her previous employees.
Mark Podobinski, organized a gathering of Chin Alumni to celebrate LeeAnn’s life. That in iteself says more for Chin and her legacy than any writer could write.
We all pass on what we know to newcomers in the business. We hope those individuals grasp it, filter it, use it or toss it. And, eventually create their course to follow. It’s part of the entrepreneurial spirit that restaurant owners and employees share.
LeeAnn Chin changed the way Minnesotans look at Chinese food. More importantly, she left her mark in many