Chef Danny Bowien of Mission Chinese - Biography
New York, NY
If Danny Bowien looks like the prototypical rock ‘n’ roll chef, it’s not because he’s a self-styled renegade. A teenager with a creative bent, the Korean-born, Ohio-raised Bowien spent a few requisite years in a band. And while music gave him an outlet for creativity, it wasn’t his final destination.
Bowien instead found himself drawn to cooking—another variant of hard, loud, group-generated chaos with exquisite results—so he moved to San Francisco to attend culinary school, ultimately deciding it wasn’t for him. But cooking was. Embarking on a kind of self-driven education, Bowien moved to New York, breaking himself in at the now closed Franco-Japanese Sumile. Bowien followed that experience with a return to San Francisco and yet more hands-on work at a variety of local restaurants, including Tsunami, Blowfish Sushi, Alembic, Slow Club, and Bar Crudo—where he worked mornings refining his knife skills for free. In fact Bowien was intent on refining as many skills as he could; he was not only opening chef de cuisine at authentic Ligurian restaurant Farina, but he also went on to win the 2008 World Pesto Championship—in Italy.
Today Bowien’s decidedly less known for his pesto prowess than for the high-octane heat and free-form creativity of his San Francisco flagship, Mission Chinese. Bowien had previously worked at Mission Street Food and Mission Burger, but the now bicoastal Mission Chinese outposts have become the hallmark of his idiosyncratic personality as much as his culinary craftsmanship—blending, borrowing, and crossing boundaries without losing respect or devolving into gratuitous innovation. And it’s working. Since Bowien’s embraced this style, the accolades have followed. Not only did his San Francisco success spawn a New York counterpart, it very quickly made “Best New Restaurant” lists across the country, and his dual successes earned Bowien a James Beard “Rising Star Chef” award in 2013.