Danny Bowien Dishes On His Hair, Success, Thanksgiving, & More!

main
Danny Bowien would like us to know he’s all grown up now. It’s been six months since the launch of the New York location of his game-changing restaurant Mission Chinese Food and now he’s back and a lot wiser. Well, the resto owner never really left, but has been focused on the sustainability of his business and renovating the original Mission Chinese Food.
All the while, he's been churning out mind-blowing dishes (black bean, stir-fried pork jowl, anyone?) and texting his staff his latest obsessions — popcorn dashi, if you’re wondering. We caught up with the culinary provocateur at Omnivore, an international food festival honoring young chefs, and found an enlightened Bowien in search of deeper umami and going beyond the haters.
So, what did you do last night?
"I went to Nopa with Brandon [Jew, executive chef at Bar Agricole] and it was so busy, so we went to the place across the street, Acme Burger House. It’s our secret go-to when we want a Nopa burger badly."
You and Brandon have this not-so-secret bromance, right?
"Brandon is the reason I make Chinese food. Whenever we go out, we eat Chinese food — except for last night. For his 30th birthday, we ate Chinese food together in Paris. I’ve never been to Paris before, so he was like me, you, let’s go. Brandon Jew, he needs to open a Chinese restaurant and find a nice girl."
Who else is in your posse?
"Jesse Koide, Brooks Rogers, and David Cabello. I got a job working at Blowfish Sushi, and I met Jesse. He was the executive chef there, and he ended up working at Slow Club down the street. We all worked there and now we all work at Mission Chinese together. Between Brooks and Jesse, they taught me how to line cook. We’re like family, and what’s bad now is that I’m the dad now. But you know, the guys I’m working with make it all possible."
You opened Mission Chinese in New York about six months ago. Did you miss San Francisco?
"I’m actually here two weeks out of the month. When I come, I try not to go out. It’s just meeting the cooks and hashing out details. We’re working on a huge menu overhaul and we just put in a brand new walk-in refrigerator. San Francisco for me is really cool. It’s beautiful. It’s not jaded. I love New York. I love both of them. People have tried to say that I like New York better, but the thing is when you’re in San Francisco, you’re forced to decompress a little bit. The pace isn’t as rigid. I am getting ideas from people and beautiful produce."
How do you feel about being known as the hipster chef?
"I’ve come to terms with that. The hipster is more of a lifestyle and a look than anything. I don’t think I live that lifestyle, and I’m wearing tennis shoes right now."
What does success look like to you?
"The fact that we’re doing what we want to do on our terms and helping other people, that’s the biggest thing for me. Our goal is to be true to ourselves. We’re just trying to be just as good as the dishes we’ve had."
We love your blond streaks. Any hair color secrets?
"I do it in my bathroom, sitting on my toilet. You have to not be afraid to fuck up your hair, put bleach on it, let it sit for an hour, put on foil, and blow dry it."
And, the length? It’s shorter than we remember.
"I cut it three days ago. My hair was almost to my ass, so I had to cut it. I did it in the hotel room with a pair of scissors. The other day I was talking to someone at a really big magazine, and they asked me about the story behind my hair, and I was like, I don’t know. Nothing. It’s just long."
Today you demoed a duck porridge with rock shrimp and a huge helping of sea urchin. Do you ever eat vegetables?
"People are not going to believe this, but I eat a pretty vegetarian diet. I eat meat and fish too, but there’s this theory that chefs eat foie gras and short ribs and all this stuff for dinner — and some of them do. I can’t do it. At the restaurant, I like whenever we make eggplant. I love eggplant. And, in New York, we’re doing a walnut miso. We take three different types of miso and ferment roasted walnuts, and we make a broth and add it to a bunch of peas and bok choy."
Any plans for Thanksgiving?
"I don’t have any plans. I don’t even know where I’m going be. I talked about going to Miami, because I’ve never been. I would just eat shitty resort food. I would just like to decompress."
What’s next for Mission Chinese Food?
"We’re going to be opening in Brooklyn. And, we’re looking to open in Oklahoma, where I’m from. There’s not a lot of awesome food in Oklahoma; I mean there’s awesome food if you like deep fried things, but I grew up watching Emeril, and I wish he’d come here and just open a restaurant. So, I’m going to do it."
Photo: Courtesy of Cheryl Locke

More from San Francisco

The tech industry is growing at a head-snapping pace, with a pool of talent that includes some of the world’s brightest innovators, movers, and shakers. ...
In a dream world, we would all roll out of bed with perfectly imperfect hair. You know, like the stuff you see in rom-coms and on Kate Moss. But, let’s be ...
We don’t know about you, but we’re not sure we can handle another "S.F. is the most expensive city in the world" headline. We get it — San Francisco is an ...
We've all had that moment where we're about to utter the name of one of the city's hottest restaurant…then come to realize we don't know exactly how on ...
Update: Last year San Francisco publisher The Bold Italic unofficially won April Fools' Day with the most over-the-top, NSFW office prank we've ever ...
In the window of a gallery in San Francisco’s Mission district, Mirabelle Jones paced the enclosed space in nothing but nude underwear. Razor blades ...
San Francisco: It’s a city as much defined by its coffee culture as it is by its tech scene. Around here, if you’re going out to get coffee, you’re likely ...
I get a text message alerting me that my marijuana delivery will be at my apartment in four minutes. "You can track your driver by clicking this link," ...
If there’s one acronym that comes to mind when you think of San Francisco’s Folsom Street Fair, it would have to be "NSFW." This past Sunday, the annual ...
When it comes to delivery services in San Francisco, food isn't the only commodity that you can order straight to your front door. From groceries to ...
While San Francisco may be home to a copious amount of high-rises and skyscrapers, this city isn't just an urban jungle. Sitting right next to the Pacific ...
Benedetta Amadi lives with her husband and their dogs, Marlo and Giuno, in a beautiful and cozy San Francisco two-bedroom. Hailing from Genoa, Italy, Amadi...
When it comes to tying the knot, adding your own quirky personal touches transforms your special day into something truly memorable. And after seeing ...
Anyone familiar with San Francisco’s notoriously foggy and chilly weather is sure to have a soft spot for this time of year in the city, as we soak up the ...