Modest, modern, mouthwatering: On those tenets, Executive Pastry Chef Diane Yang has built her reputation as one of Minneapolis’s dessert masters. Yang’s dessert menus hit a range of tones, textures, and flavors to be that enduring final impression, with a delicate balance of sweet with sour, savory, bitter, and salty. “I think simple is good,” she says. “Once in a while, I’ll go all out and do something gorgeous, but I mostly like to stick with the well-executed simple items that comfort people and entice them to come back for more.”
Born in Providence, RI, and raised in Junction City, WI, Yang was the eldest of six and grew up cooking alongside her parents. Her interest in the kitchen, and especially for pastries and cakes, led her to enroll at Le Cordon Bleu in Eagan, MN, in 2000. While a student, she interned under James Beard Award-winning Chef Tim McKee at his four-star restaurant, La Belle Vie. After graduating the following year, she started her professional career working at Chef Marcus Samuelsson’s critically acclaimed Aquavit, under Executive Pastry Chef Adrienne Odom. When Odom left Aquavit in 2003 to help open Solera, Yang followed her mentor to become the four-star restaurant’s assistant pastry chef. Yang dedicated four years studying and learning under Odom, eventually coming full circle and expanding her responsibilities to include work for La Belle Vie, Solera’s sister restaurant at the time. Yang credits Odom with instilling in her the ability to create her own style and identity, and to ultimately, “find yourself in your desserts.” Yang next worked with Executive Pastry Chef Michelle Gayer at Solera and La Belle Vie, and she had the opportunity to make the role her own in 2008, putting her distinctive stamp on La Belle Vie’s whimsical and delicate desserts. In 2013, Yang received a coveted Charlie Award for Outstanding Pastry Chef in the Twin Cities.
Before joining Gavin at Spoon and Stable and Bellecour, Yang also consulted with several of the Twin Cities’ other top chefs and restaurants, developing dessert menus for 112 Eatery and Bar La Grassa, both under the culinary direction of James Beard Award winner Chef Isaac Becker, as well as Barrio, Crave, Masu, and Smalley’s Caribbean Barbeque and Pirate Bar.
In her spare time, the Woodbury resident enjoys paging through her cookbook collection; spending time with her kids, Thomas, 16, and Lily, 12; and visiting her parents’ farm in Wisconsin.