Age: 40 Home Town: Minneapolis Favorite Ingredient: Chocolate Signature Dish: Smoked chocolate with fig tart, vanilla bean ice cream and salted almond praline Mentor: Barbara Tropp
Khanh Tran grew up in the restaurant business, as her family ran Lotus, one of the first Vietnamese restaurants in the Twin Cities. She credits her mother Le with teaching her the joys of cooking and eating. While her siblings all shied away from the kitchen, Tran headed to the Culinary Institute of America and then to San Francisco to work at restaurants like Boulevard and China Moon, where she met the late Barbara Tropp, who encouraged her passion for pastry. While her impressive résumé includes training in pastry at the Ritz Escoffier in Paris and high production baking, she made her mark on the Minneapolis culinary scene at Levain, Wolfgang Puck’s 2021 and Auriga before taking the executive pastry chef position at Graves 601 Hotel, where she also oversees desserts at Cosmos. Inspired by her travels, seasonality and her Vietnamese roots, Tran uses savory ingredients and techniques in her sophisticated creations. She infuses her chocolate with the flavors of tobacco, teas, and has even cold-smoked it with mesquite wood in a fish smoker to give desserts complexity and cut the sweetness. Her sweet finales flow from the restaurant’s modern menu, like an avocado custard with basil gelée, buttermilk sorbet and Thai basil candy; a grapefruit-blood orange panna cotta with white chocolate; and her signature smoked chocolate and fig dessert.