Just barely over a month after transitioning Appalachian comfort food kitchen Yonder into a new restaurant called Hissyfit, chef Maya Lovelace has permanently closed its doors and is calling it a career.
Lovelace announced the news about both her business and departure this afternoon on Hissyfit’s Instagram account. Eater was first to report the development.
“We make this decision with full hearts and exhausted spirits,” the post read. “The last few years have been very hard. Hissyfit was our hail mary, a chance to intentionally do everything our ideal way and see if it worked.”
The statement added that Lovelace was “walking away from the restaurant industry” to seek “a more gentle, joyful, sustainable life and livelihood.”
Lovelace explained that she originally shifted from Yonder to Hissyfit in order to have more creative freedom in the kitchen—cooking for the sheer joy of it with fewer constraints.
But a quick scroll through the restaurant’s social media timeline reveals that the last few weeks have been a challenge—and perhaps anything but enjoyable. Not only did multiple heat waves make it too hot to fire up the burners, forcing the business to temporarily close—one photo shows a thermometer reading 111.5 degrees—the account says that the building was broken into and burglarized, and then a power surge knocked out the refrigeration system.
During its few weeks of service, Hissyfit carried forward some of Yonder in the form of Southern ingredients and flavors alongside globally inspired dishes. The dining room had been made over with vibrant, botanical wallpaper, however, to better match the new concept’s personality, “hissy fit,” or the “classic Southernism for a tantrum—specifically used in regards to the sass and emotional outbursts of women,” Lovelace described, pre-opening.
The name might have also been a reference to the uproar surrounding Lovelace’s 2020 social media campaign in which she asked other restaurant workers to recount toxic environments they’d experienced, and then shared those accusations with her followers. The flurry of posts over the course of several days that summer were part of an industry reckoning regarding low pay, unpredictable hours, and abuse following mass layoffs due to the pandemic.
The public airing of complaints and concerns was both applauded and criticized. Some even ended up accusing Yonder of fostering a harmful work culture.
Before topics other than the food made local headlines, Lovelace quickly became a known name in the Portland restaurant scene after moving from South Carolina in 2012. Her itinerant series of suppers called Mae, first held in Cully butchery Old Salt’s backroom before moving to Dame on Northeast Killingsworth Street, consistently sold out in less than an hour after tickets were made available. The fried chicken varnished in three fats, fluffy angel biscuits, and Lovelace’s Southern-tinged tales about each dish earned it the title of WW’s 2016 Pop-Up of the Year. And when Mae was put on pause for the launch of Yonder—people were given regular access to the supper club’s greatest hits: pimento mac and cheese, collard greens, iceberg lettuce salad coated in an herbaceous buttermilk vinaigrette. But like most restaurants, the pandemic was hard on Yonder.
In all, Lovelace probably best summed up her Portland culinary arc in today’s social media post: “Thanks, Portland. It’s been real, it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun.”