Mission Chinese, the eclectic Chinese restaurant set to close its flagship Lower East Side outpost at the end of this month, is once again in the spotlight. The ex-wife of founder Danny Bowien, Youngmi Mayer, who was involved in opening the original New York location, has leveled a series of allegations against the restaurant’s former star chef Angela Dimayuga, bringing attention back to the years-long conflict between Bowien and Dimayuga.
Dimayuga left Mission in 2017, claiming at the time that Bowien refused to promote her while expressing frustration that she did not receive enough credit for the restaurant’s concept and success. Earlier this summer, Dimayuga seemingly revisited her time at Mission in an Instagram post referencing the nearly six years she worked at a “hipster, neoliberal, pretty diverse Asian restaurant,” and called out her “non-white, cis, hetero male chef boss,” — a seeming reference to Bowien — and alleged that “he was verbally abusive, deeply manipulative, misogynistic, and a sexual harasser to me and a lot of my former coworkers.”
Shortly after Dimayuga published the post this past July, Bowien went on Mayer’s podcast, which she co-hosts with Brian Park, to speak at length about his perspective of what happened at Mission Chinese as part of an interview that covered the allegations, Bowien’s upbringing, and his future plans for the company. Without naming Dimayuga, Bowien, Mayer, and Park discuss interactions with someone they refer to as “Person X,” which is seemingly a reference to Dimayuga.
During the interview, Bowien said that he takes “full accountability for negligence as a business owner” but that he was “really scared to engage” with staffers who wanted to come directly to him with complaints about the workplace environment. Instead, Bowien said in the interview that he passed responsibility to the restaurant’s HR department and other managers to field the complaints. Mayer also alleged that Bowien didn’t know the extent of the harassment allegations, as staffers would complain to “Person X” and assume that the concerns were passed on to Bowien, when that allegedly wasn’t always the case.
Last week, soon after the Mission closing announcement, Mayer doubled down with more detailed allegations about Dimayuga’s time at Mission Chinese in a lengthy Instagram post, refuting many of Dimayuga’s previous claims. In the post, she claims that it was Dimayuga who had enabled harassment at the restaurant, not Bowien, and that it stemmed from another person in the kitchen, who was hired by Dimayuga. Mayer goes on to allege that Dimayuga was aware of the behavior, and that Mayer and Bowien were reportedly going to fire her, before she got wind of the situation and preemptively quit, according to Mayer’s Instagram post.
Both Dimayuga and Mayer did not return requests for comment for this story, and Bowien declined to comment to Eater NY.
The thrust of Mayer’s allegations focus on Dimayuga’s connection to the alleged perpetrator — reportedly a friend of Dimayuga. Mayer claims in her Instagram post that in 2017, Mission hired an HR firm after hearing rumors that a member of the kitchen staff was harassing other staffers. The resulting investigation allegedly found that this person had harassed multiple female staffers at the restaurant, and Dimayuga had known about it, according to Mayer’s post.
Mayer goes on to claim that the 2018 racial discrimination lawsuit that was brought against the restaurant — and ultimately settled out of court — was also a result of Dimayuga reportedly covering up bad behavior on the part of this same person, as well as one of the managers at the restaurant.
Following Dimayuga’s Instagram post from July, where she laid out allegations of harassment from Bowien, Mayer claims that multiple former staffers reached out to her to refute that Bowien was abusive in the kitchen. Dimayuga has not publicly addressed any of the allegations made by Mayer since they went up on Instagram last week.
In July, Eater reached out to Dimayuga and three people who claimed to be former Mission staffers in the comments section on her post. In those comments, at least one of the staffers claimed that Dimayuga had enabled harassment at the restaurant. Dimayuga and the staffers did not respond to requests for comment at the time.
Bowien originally hired Dimayuga in 2012 to help open Mission Chinese in Manhattan. As the restaurant’s profile skyrocketed in New York, the two maintained a contentious relationship. Although Bowien was often positioned as the face of the restaurant, Dimayuga claimed in later years that she was responsible for designing Mission Chinese’s sceney location on the Lower East Side and for developing many of the restaurant’s hit recipes.
While Mission Chinese’s reputation grew, Dimayuga cultivated a public profile as a queer woman of color who advocated for safe spaces in the industry for queer, BIPOC food communities.
In a 2017 Eater profile, Dimayuga outlined her goals for reimagining restaurant kitchens from brash, male-dominated workplaces into queer-friendly spaces that were safe from harassment and incorporated better work-life balances. In a later Bon Appétit interview, she spoke about how wellness and self-care became important goals for her as a leader in the kitchen at Mission Chinese.
As the executive chef at Mission Chinese, she picked up industry accolades including a Best New Chef award from New York Magazine, a 2015 Eater Young Guns award, and a nomination from the James Beard Foundation as a 2016 Rising Star Chef.
After Dimayuga left Mission Chinese, she landed a role as the creative director of food and culture at hip boutique hotel company the Standard, where she oversaw restaurant development for each of the hotel’s properties. Dimayuga left the Standard in January 2020, according to her LinkedIn profile. She will be debuting her first cookbook, Filipinx Cookbook, in 2021.
Mission in Bushwick is still open, as well as the company’s original Mission Chinese location in San Francisco. Following Mission Chinese NYC’s closure at the end of the month, the company will shift its focus more toward “take out, pre-packaged meals and new models of distribution,” Bowien said in a statement on the shutdown.