Meeting 31-year-old Danny Bowien at his restaurant Mission Chinese Food on New York's Lower East Side might be creative overload for anyone living north of Williamsburg. It's a triple threat—his hipster-chic aesthetic complete with round glasses and long colorful hair; his bold, Asian-inspired comfort-food creations such as Kung Pao Pastrami and pesto "ramen;" and an atmosphere comprising tattooed chefs, cool clientele and a vintage-record-lined walkway. Even less conventional on the West Coast is the restaurant he set up within another fully operational Chinese restaurant owned by someone else.
But the Oklahoma City-born chef has an influence that exceeds his cult followings on both coasts. This year he won one of the most prestigious culinary awards in the world —The James Beard Foundation's rising star award. "Chef Danny Bowien is a creative-genius chef who has created a distinctive look with his ombre-haired, baseball-cap-wearing colorful personality," said James Beard Foundation President Susan Ungaro. "Everyone in the food world is watching him and wondering what he will do next! And so is the James Beard Foundation."