Healthy Living: Cooking with a Passion
If you’re a diehard foodie, you know all about the James Beard Awards. Often called the Oscars of the food world, these prestigious awards recognize the very best restaurants and chefs across the United States. Chef Lona Luo Powers at Lona’s Lil Eats has been nominated for best chef in the midwest for three years running.
Chef Powers is described as a force in the kitchen and uses no shortcuts when it comes to her amazing dishes. “I’m pretty stubborn this way,” she laughed. Before the pandemic, people could be seen lining up out the door to get a taste of her delicious cuisine. One customer said, “It’s always crowded and full of people. The food is phenomenal”. Another explained that “[Lona’s Lil Eats] is really something. It’s not like anyplace else”.
Chef Powers is from a tiny mountain village in Southwest China. Her home had no electricity, no running water, and sometimes, no food. “We don’t have shoes or anything”. She moved to the U.S. at age 29 with her American husband. From there, she knew she could cook, but she struggled to find work. So, instead of looking for a job, she decided to open her own restaurant.
In 2014, Chef Powers opened Lona’s Lil Eats in Saint Louis with a menu that is a throwback to her childhood. Her staples in the kitchen include her wok, vegetable oil, soy sauce, fresh herbs, and cao guo, which is an aromatic Chinese spice.
She had never heard of the James Beard Awards when she was first nominated in 2018. She only found out about the awards when customers came in to congratulate her for being nominated. re
The James Beard Foundation makes a call out for submissions every fall. To learn more on how to submit your favorite Michigan-based restaurant for the awards, click here.