After years of pop-ups and with three restaurant opening under her belt, chef and Eater Young Gun Maya Lovelace is hanging up her restaurant apron. Just over a month after opening her latest restaurant, Hissyfit, Lovelace has announced its closure, as well as her departure from the Portland restaurant industry. “We have made the decision to walk away from the restaurant industry and seek a more gentle, joyful, sustainable life and livelihood,” a post on the restaurant’s Instagram reads. Lovelace has not responded to Eater’s request for comment.
In her career, Lovelace has worked at restaurants like South Carolina destination Husk and Portland’s Beast, before she began her Southern pop-up Mae in Portland in 2015. She developed a following for her fried chicken and angel biscuits, which became the foundation for her restaurant Yonder. Yonder, a casual fried chicken restaurant in Cully, opened in 2019; Lovelace used a back room as a permanent home for Mae. In 2020, Mae went into hibernation, and Lovelace ended up at the heart of a reckoning surrounding the Portland restaurant industry. After she began using her Instagram to post anonymous accounts from food service workers about abuse, harassment, and mismanagement within Portland restaurants, former employees and coworkers began calling out her behavior as a boss and manager, alleging a toxic workplace culture at Yonder.
In the following years, Lovelace tried to address the claims made by employees by changing workplace conditions at Yonder, shortening workweeks and tightening the size of the staff to allow for more oversight of the team at large. However, Lovelace and the team at Yonder wanted a fresh start, deciding to close Yonder in June 2022 and reopen as a new restaurant, Hissyfit, in July. Hissyfit was meant to be a more collaborative project, with an eclectic menu featuring recipes and contributions from the full kitchen staff. “I’m really excited just to let this kind of stuff flow again, to have the capability to just cook for fun,” Lovelace told Eater in June. “I want to cook food that makes you feel really, really good when you eat it. I’m excited to have the chance to do that.”
In the caption of Monday’s Instagram post, Lovelace acknowledged that she wasn’t able to solve the challenges she faced operating a restaurant with Hissyfit. “The last few years have been very hard,” she writes. “Hissyfit was our hail mary, a chance to intentionally do everything our ideal way and see if it worked.”