Bellecour Bakery pastry chef finds sweet success inspired by Hmong heritage

Diane Moua, the pastry chef at Bellecour Bakery, puts the finishing touches on her dessert.

As the pastry chef at Bellecour Bakery, Diane Moua has already enjoyed the sweet taste of success. Her path to get where she is today, however, hasn't always been a piece of her signature crepe cake.

"Seeing someone grab a desert, whether it’s just plating or here in the bakery, knowing it’s making their day something sweeter to make their day brighter is pretty amazing," said Moua.

Moua grew up on a farm in Junction City, Wisconsin as the daughter to Hmong refugees. She says it wasn't easy being the only Asian family in the rural community, where people would routinely drop dead fish and calves at the end of their driveway and smash their mailbox.

"I think my parents got so tired of a replacing our mailbox that to this day we have a P.O. box at the post office," she said. "They just gave up trying to rebuild that mailbox."

Moua says she developed a taste for making pastries after she saw the beautiful cakes at a Twin Cities grocery store. After attending culinary school, she worked in some of area's most respected restaurants like La Belle Vie and Aquavit before moving on to Spoon and Stable, Bellecour and Demi.

She's been nominated for five James Beard Awards, the Oscars of the restaurant world, for her colorful creations and she uses her Hmong heritage to create plated desserts infused with a taste of home.

"Hmongs - we don't like sweet, sweet stuff so it’s always a balance," said Moua. "I always call it a strawberry shortcake palate. It’s a little acidic, a little creamy. So a lot of my desserts aren't that sweet."

Moua says her new gig helping Bellecour Bakery grow to a second location in St. Paul allows her to have nights off for the first time in her career and spend more time with her two kids.

She says it’s her parents who pushed her early in life that have given her all the ingredients she needs to succeed.

"In the beginning it was just a job, but now I'm so passionate about it," she said. "It’s my life. It’s my career and I'm going to keep going wherever it leads me."