Culinary Icon Leeann Chin’s Journey to Building an Asian Cuisine Empire in Minnesota

Many Minnesotans are familiar with the name Leeann Chin and her beloved chain of Chinese restaurants across the state. But not everyone knows the extraordinary story behind her rise to success.

In 1980, at the age of 47, Leeann, a determined Chinese woman, opened her first restaurant in Minnetonka. Her life wasn’t easy from the start. She was forced into marriage as a young girl and moved to Minnesota with her husband.

Life in Minnesota was tough for Leeann. She had to raise six children in a small house with just one bathroom. Despite all the challenges, she remained strong and devoted to her family.

Cooking became Leeann’s way of expressing love, even though she didn’t say it with words. When her older daughter tragically passed away, Leeann found comfort in the kitchen, and her passion for cooking grew. Her delicious Chinese dishes quickly gained fame when she catered a luncheon for her sewing clients. They loved her food so much that they encouraged her to teach cooking and cater more events.

With hard work, Leeann’s restaurant business flourished. She even got support from unexpected sources, like Carl Pohlad, the owner of the Minnesota Twins, thanks to a party she catered where Sean Connery, the famous actor, was a guest.

As word spread about her delectable dishes, lines of eager customers formed around her restaurant, and her culinary empire flourished. In time, General Mills acquired her successful chain, marking a remarkable milestone in her journey.

Leeann’s passion for cooking didn’t end with her success; it carried on through her daughter Katie Chin, who also pursued a career as a chef. Together, they became celebrated national TV cooking stars, preserving Leeann’s legacy for future generations.

Today, Katie honors her mother’s memory with a cookbook, showcasing Leeann’s cherished recipes, including the famous chicken chow mein.

Featured Image Source: Pioneer Press