10 Sparks: Creative Inspiration from Danny

Start your own inclusive club When Danny felt alienated in more classical kitchens, he went DIY, creating an inclusive environment that fueled greater creativity. “I wanted to surround myself with people who might not feel accepted in haute-cuisine kitchens,” he says.

Go wide within a narrow framework While Sichuan cooking is still at the heart of Mission Chinese, it’s the cross-pollination of other cuisines within that focused space that makes the restaurant truly unique. “We make whatever we want now,” says Danny, “because I draw inspiration from everywhere.”

Give everyone a say Danny doesn’t allow traditional kitchen hierarchy to stand in the way of making a great idea even better; everyone contributes. “A dish is never only my vision,” he says, “because I don’t think I’m always the best at everything.”

Stay humble and grow If you believe you’ve perfected your craft, you won’t welcome ideas that help you evolve. Or as Danny says, “We should agree that no one knows everything and we all still have a lot to learn.”

Seek inspiration from outside your field Danny’s passion for music informs everything he does in the kitchen. He organizes his staff like a band, plans every menu like a performance and plots his next move in the context of meeting or defying audience expectation.

Burn brightly, but not so hot that you burn out Danny initially made a name for himself through constant innovation, but he’s since set a more sustainable pace. “Everyone loves to see people doing crazy shit, but you can’t maintain that,” he says.

Create a soulful experience, not just a product  “If people can eat at the restaurant and walk away feeling like they connected… that’s important to me,” says Danny. “That’s the power you have, because you can’t download food.”

—ROBERT CHERRY