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Ellen Yin wins James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur award

Ellen Yin of the High Street Hospitality Group in Philadelphia won the prestigious James Beard Outstanding Restaurateur award Monday in Chicago, reports Billy Penn.

She is a five-time finalist for the award and her group of restaurants under the High Street Hospitality Group includes Fork, a.kitchen + bar, and High Street.

During the pandemic, Yin became involved with the Wonton Project, a popup specializing in the popular Chinese dumpling. She donated 5 percent of the proceeds to several Asian American non-profits as her way of fighting anti-Asian hate.

She grew up in a mostly White suburb of New Jersey in the 1980’s and recalls being bullied for being different. Her passion for restaurants evolved after she began working after school at a local French restaurant.

“It immediately became a second home to me,” Yin said during a TEDxPenn talk, according to Open Table. “You were accepted no matter who you are.” 

Yin had the foresight to open Fork 26 years ago in a Philadelphia neighborhood where she saw factory buildings being converted into luxury condos. She knew the upscale residents moving there would need somewhere to eat. Thus she opened Fork.

“As someone in my late 20s, I didn’t have access to the level of restaurants that twentysomethings have today,” Yin says. “I wanted something accessible and fresh. I wondered why restaurants never changed their menus and why they served things that weren’t in season when seasonal ingredients taste better.”

Her food at Fork is locally sourced. She readily admitted to CBS that she has a weakness for carbs.

“What has kept me fueled is connection. Connection with the community. Connection with my team members. Having a place people want to call home. This is my home,” she told CBS Saturday Morning.

You can see the entire list of James Beard Award winners here from NPR.

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