Danny Bowien (born James Daniel Bowien in 1982) is an award winning chef and restaurateur. He is the founder and owner of Mission Chinese Food in New York City and Brooklyn and co-founder of Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco, California. Bowien is a James Beard Award winner and the main subject on the sixth season of season of the popular food and travel show The Mind of a Chef.
James Daniel Bowien
1982 (age 36–37)
Bowien, born in South Korea, was adopted at a young age by a family in Oklahoma. He started off in the kitchen out of necessity, making meals for his family. There, cooking the food of middle America, he learned to love making people happy and providing comfort through the communal act of eating. Growing up as one of the only Korean Americans in school left him without a clear sense of identity, and his roots in asian culture fostered a need to do something respectable. As a youth he trained as a technician in an ophthalmologist office, played drums in various bands, and worked as a dishwasher in a Vietnamese restaurant. At 19 he relocated to San Francisco after an impactful visit there exposed the culinary spectrum the city had to offer.
After a spell in culinary school Bowien worked at several restaurants in the San Francisco Bay Area, including the Italian restaurant Farina. Through his work there he was sent to the 2008 Pesto World Championships in Genoa, Italy, where he won first place. At age 26, Bowien considered quitting the restaurant industry. However, after tasting Szechuan food at San Francisco's Spices II restaurant he was reinvigorated by the fiery cuisine and began experimenting with Chinese flavors.
Bowien partnered with Anthony Myint on a series of food truck pop-ups including Mission Street Food and Mission Burger. In search of something more permanent, Bowien & Myint connected with the owners of a Chinese restaurant called Lung Shan on Mission Street and started Mission Chinese Food as the first restaurant-within-a-restaurant pop-up. The Mission Chinese Food pop-up, an immediate success, was named the second Best New Restaurant in America by Bon Appetit Magazine and fourth Best New Restaurant in America by GQ Magazine. Bowien was nominated the 2011 Rising Star Chef by the San Francisco Chronicle, and in 2012 he was a James Beard Award Finalist. He was included in Food and Wine Magazine’s 40 Big Thinkers under 40, and San Francisco Chronicle’s Bay Area 30 under 30.
After leaving San Francisco in 2012 Bowien opened a standalone Mission Chinese Food in New York City’s Lower East Side. The east coast location, featuring the chef’s signature spice infused dishes and located in diminutive former Thai restaurant, immediately drew insatiable crowds and cemented Bowien as a cult fixture of culinary devotion. In 2013, he opened a Mexican restaurant, Mission Cantina, in New York. Mission Cantina was closed 3 years later. In May 2013, Bowien was awarded the prestigious "Rising Star Chef" by the James Beard Foundation for his work in the Mission Chinese Food in San Francisco and New York City.
In 2014 Bowien relocated Mission Chinese Food to its current location in New York’s Chinatown. In 2017, Bowien was chosen to be the main subject of the sixth season of the popular food and travel show The Mind of a Chef. It premiered on November 14, 2017 on Facebook Watch. In 2018, Bowien opened a new Mission Chinese Food location in Bushwick, Brooklyn in front of the independent music venue Elsewhere.
Bowien is recognized for his impact on the democratization of fine dining. Motivated by a drive to create approachable food his restaurants are a seamless mix of lowbrow and highbrow cuisine. Bowien is known for being a populist, making food that is accessible to everyone. His work in the kitchen is notable for pioneering the elevation of Chinese food and breaking down barriers in an industry known for its strict Eurocentric hierarchy. While he does not aim to replicate authentic Chinese food, a meal at one of his restaurants is an undeniably original experience.
Notorious for his personal style, ever evolving appearance, and collection of tattoos Bowien is known for being as adventurous with his fashion as he is with his food. He is as comfortable on the runway as he is in the kitchen and has modeled/collaborated with numerous brands including Eckhaus Latta, Moncler, Uniqlo, Vfiles, Alexander Wang, Sandy Liang, Puppets and Puppets. Bowien, the subject of numerous fashion editorials, has made appearances in Vogue, GQ, Hypebeast, and Interview Magazine in collaboration with Chinese food icon, Mr. Cow. He attributes his ongoing inspiration to a broad perspective that reaches outside the culinary world finding empowerment through authenticity. Bowien’s creative practice also extends into music, where he finds parallels between the connected acts of cooking and playing in a band. His current group NARX includes Geoff Rickly (of Thursday) and Chris Conley (of Saves the Day). Having drummed in punk groups since a young age the energetic DIY sound of his music mirrors the rebellious nature of his food.
- "2013 James Beard Award Winners" (PDF).
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- Cathey, Dave (May 28, 2013). "Danny Bowien comes to the aid of his hometown". The Oklahoman.
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- "2008 Championship". Pestochampionship.it. Archived from the original on 2012-07-24. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- Late Night with Seth Meyers (14 November 2017). "Danny Bowien Cooks Up Some Spicy Chicken Wings for Seth"– via YouTube.
- "Cycling around San Francisco with chef Danny Bowien". Food & Wine. December 19, 2017. When Danny talks about the genesis of Mission Chinese Food, he often evokes Spices II: Szechuan Trenz. The restaurant is one of the first places he encountered the distinct pleasures of Szechuan cuisine, and it inspired the chef to begin experimenting with the region’s flavors.”
- "The Best New Restaurants in America, 2011: In the Magazine". bonappetit.com. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- Carolyn Alburger (2012-02-16). "GQ's Alan Richman Names Mission Chinese Food Among Ten Best New Restaurants of 2011". Sf.eater.com. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
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- Carey Jones (2012-03-19). "James Beard Foundation Announces 2012 Finalists". Serious Eats. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
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- Fabricant, Florence (2012-02-13). "Mission Chinese Food Is Coming to New York — NYTimes.com". San Francisco (Calif): Dinersjournal.blogs.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-08-30.
- Fabricant, Florence (2013-10-28). "Danny Bowien's Mission Cantina Opens Soon". The New York Times.
- Dai, Serena (December 8, 2016). "Danny Bowien's Mission Cantina Closes After Three Years Of Shapeshifting". Eater NY.
- Gordinier, Jeff (December 23, 2014) “A Chef Regains His Focus”. The New York Times. Retrieved October 30th, 2019.
- Adam Platt (2019-01-29). "At the Psychedelic New Mission Chinese Food, Get the Riblets". GrubStreet.
- Interview. (September 12, 2018). “Restaurateurs Danny Bowien and Mr.Chow compare notes on Chinese food and the truth of a dish”. Interview Magazine. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
- Birdsall, John (May 10, 2019). “Chef Danny Bowien doesn’t care that you have a problem with his Arizona Iced Tea deal”. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
- Bobila, Maria. (July 10, 2018). “How I Shop: Danny Bowien”. Fashionista. Retrieved October 17, 2019
- Golberg, Elyssa. (October 19, 2016). “The Deeply Personal Stories Behind Chefs' Tattoos”. Bon Appétit. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
- Wilson, Meagan. (February 27, 2017). “Danny Bowien, The Mission Chinese chef on bucking tradition and why he respects Vetements and Gucci”. Coveteur. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
- Regensdorf, Laura (October 19, 2018). “Danny Bowien on the Hard-Partying Chef Life—Now Fueled by SoulCycle and Spirulina”. Vouge. Retrieved October 17, 2019.
- Vianna, Carla (september 12, 2019). “Mission Chinese’s Ultra-Hip Chef Danny Bowien Struts Down NYFW Catwalk”. Eater New York. Retrieved October 30th, 2019.
- Malone, Callan (September 3rd, 2019). “Puppets and Puppets Gears Up For NYFW”. Cultured. Retrieved November 11th, 2019.
- Fu, Joanna (March 6th, 2017). “Mission Chinese Food's Danny Bowien Has an Impressive Vetements and Gucci Collection”. Hypebeast. Retrieved November 15th, 2019.
- Lozano, Kevin (August 18th, 2016). “If Chefs Are the New Rock Stars, Then Danny Bowien Is Eddie Van Halen”. Pitchfork. Retrieved November 15th 2019.