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Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What the Hell Is Danny Bowien Thinking? A Snapshot

Posted By on Wed, Sep 8, 2010 at 5:37 PM

click to enlarge Danny Bowien. - JESSE FRIEDMAN/BEER & NOSH
When I called Danny Bowien up last week, trying to find out what the

hell he was doing at Mission Chinese Food, my few simple questions

turned into an hour-long chat that spiraled from his obsession with

Sichuan cuisine to an intriguing offhand comment that Lung Shan has a

second, Chinese-language menu that draws in an older lunchtime crowd. (I

briefly considered going back with someone to order off that menu, but

then I decided explaining MCF was complicated enough.) A few highlights

from our interview:

On why he and Anthony Myint opened Mission Chinese Food:

Well, Mission Burger was ending and Mission Street food was ending. What

[Anthony Myint and I] were doing at both of those was just pretty

awesome, people got it, but not enough to where it was profitable.

Mission Burger was just me ― they wouldn't allow us to hire anyone else.

And we were open every day for three hours a day. Mission Chinese Food

was just open two times a week. ... So we thought, let's address the

drawbacks of both operations. We'll be open seven days a week and

deliver city wide. We're trying to give people a reason not to complain.

On the kitchen setup:

I couldn't cook on the line at the beginning, and so the owners of Lung Shan said, we'll hire some Chinese people to come in. So we have two guys, one of them is 50 years old and one is 26. They don't know how to cook ― that's even better. If you have some badass Chinese chef who comes in, he may not cook that pork belly so long.

I pay the cooks with profit from what I make; the servers tip out the cooks, so they're making good money and they work really hard. I run the kitchen, so when I have an iota of spare time, I'll try to change the menu. I try to change it every three weeks.

Lung Shan has one [cooking] line with two small woks and one large wok. And we have one four-top range ― it's a thousand years old ― and an oven that doesn't work. So everything's slow cooked here. It's a big braising party. That's what I'm on top of, making sure that meats are seasoned, salted, and braised.

On citywide delivery:

If someone really needs to have our food, we'll bring it to them. Sometimes I get an order and think, if you live in the Richmond, you should just go to Spices. But I feel flattered all the same.

Follow us on Twitter: @sfoodie. Follow me at @JonKauffman.

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Jonathan Kauffman


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