Top Twin Cities chefs star in an ad for Cointreau that is slated to appear in some markets Sunday during the Super Bowl, and it promises to be a tear-jerker.

Cointreau, the French orange liqueur, posted on social media an emotional behind-the-scenes video about the making of the ad, titled "Love Letter," which was produced by Andrew Zimmern's Minnesota-based production company, Intuitive Content. The ad aims to thank food-and-drink businesses, and to raise awareness about the Independent Restaurant Coalition (IRC), which is urging Congress to provide economic relief for the nation's 500,000 independent restaurants. Zimmern, the chef and television personality, is a founding member of the coalition.

The 30-second spot that will air during the game will urge viewers to write a "love letter" to their favorite restaurant or bar. More information on how to do that will be posted at; it involves tagging restaurants on social media with a message of thanks and the hashtag #SaveRestaurants.

Cointreau and the IRC approached Zimmern's production company about creating a commercial that would salute restaurants, Zimmern said in an interview. "It's wonderful to see the commercial work, and that this particular work goes and does so much for the independent restaurant and bar community," he said. "Obviously that's a very special feeling for me to know we're able to contribute to an industry that's been kneecapped in the worst possible way."

More than one in six restaurants have closed permanently since the first shutdowns almost a year ago, according to data from the IRC. More than 2.4 million hospitality workers have lost their jobs.

"The global pandemic has threatened the family of restaurants, bars and industry partners that help create the exceptional moments and experiences customers hold near and dear when they order a Cointreau cocktail. We're taking this opportunity to amplify their voices during one of the biggest moments of the year with our emotionally-charged 'Love Letter,' an authentic testament to the industry we love and are committed to see thrive again," said Ian McLernon, president and CEO at Rémy Cointreau Americas, in a release. "Our on-premise partners have given Cointreau so much, and we want to do our part to show our support. We are thrilled to work alongside the Independent Restaurant Coalition to keep restaurants from disappearing forever."

Zimmern said it was important to him to spotlight Minnesota chefs in the ad, which was filmed at Young Joni and its adjoining back bar in northeast Minneapolis. "Local Twin Citians will recognize all of them," he said.

It stars two big names in the local dining scene. Justin Sutherland, chef and owner of Handsome Hog in St. Paul, and Ann Kim, the chef/owner behind Young Joni, Pizzeria Lola, Hello Pizza and the new Sooki & Mimi. Furloughed restaurant manager Pilar Garcia also appears in the ad, along with Young Joni bar manager Adam Gorski.

"It's the biggest stage in the world, it's the most watched show on one day, so very, very exciting," Sutherland says at the start of the trailer about the ad's reach.

(Sutherland is no stranger to the camera. The former "Top Chef" star is one of three chefs tasked with re-creating celebrities' favorite fast-food menu items on the new show "Fast Foodies," which premieres Feb. 4 at 9:30 p.m. on truTV.)

Kim gets heartfelt in the video when talking about the impact of the pandemic on her businesses.

"I had a decision to make when the pandemic hit and that was curl up in a ball and quit. But that's not in my nature," she says.

Wiping away tears, she adds, "I don't have children of my own and my restaurant family is my family.

"I miss the people that have supported us throughout the years to be able to do what we're able to do to connect, and I hope we can do that again really soon."

The video ends on an optimistic note.

"The day I open my doors up, to welcome my staff back, the community back to enjoy our food again, it's going to be one of the best days ever," Sutherland says. "I cannot wait. It will happen and we will still be here for you."

Despite being filmed in Minneapolis and spotlighting Twin Cities chefs, the ad won't air locally on television. "Cointreau chose markets hardest hit by COVID-19 pandemic," the release says. Those 15 markets include Boston, Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, but not Minneapolis and St. Paul. The spot will be available on YouTube and social channels.

Sharyn Jackson • 612-673-4853