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2 0 1 5 T r a d i T i o n s M a g a z i n e 35 Getting the Dish on Text and Photography by reggie ellis { } Denmark red and elly thomsen immigrated to the United states in 1927. ey left behind their homeland of denmark but brought with them traditions rich with winter recipes. native to a nation of farmers, the danish couple settled in iowa where they raised their family. Kim Payne, owner of Valhalla restaurant in Visalia, remem- bers standing on a stool next to her grandmoth- er as she carried her cultural cuisine into their country kitchen. "i've always loved to cook," said Kim. "it's always been in my blood." Kim's parents, elsie Casida and Jerry Hurst, moved Kim and her two siblings to Visalia af- ter Jerry was transferred to a new position with armstrong rubber Co. in the san Joaquin Val- ley. eir family made several trips to solvang where Kim and her mother felt closer to their danish heritage. "Mom and i thought, 'opening a restaurant would be fun,'" Kim quipped. a friend and restaurateur encouraged them to follow their dreams and open a restaurant in Visalia. armed only with family recipes and a passion for pleasing the palate, the mother daughter duo - without any culinary training, schooling or the slightest certification - decided to seed danish roots among fields of migrant families from everyone but denmark. "i was an oral surgical assistant at the time and when my boss thought i was crazy when i told him i was quitting to open a restaurant," Kim says. "But he eats here quite often now so i think i made the right choice." Kim and elsie were extremely frugal in their endeavor. ey purchased used equipment, furnished the restaurant with older tables and chairs and decorated the walls with family an- tiques and collectibles. ey went through the normal growing pains of a restaurant – trying to find the right staff, tweaking recipes, building a customer base, advertising in the right places – before finally finding a balance between old World ways and new World wants. "i learned by watching and observing. i was completely self taught," Kim says. "it was also a different time. i don't know how many 21 year olds today would be able to make it in the

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