Food News

Chef Maya Lovelace, Formerly of Yonder and Mae, Is Leaving the Restaurant Industry

Lovelace announced the closure of her new restaurant, Hissyfit, on August 15 via Instagram.

By Katherine Chew Hamilton August 15, 2022

A dish from Maya Lovelace's Hissyfit

Chef Maya Lovelace served up a special kind of Southern food in Portland—generous quantities of Appalachian cuisine made with straight-from-the-South ingredients and locally grown produce, inspired by her grandmother’s North Carolina cooking.

But now, after two decades in the kitchen, she says she's stepping away from the restaurant industry entirely, closing down her brand new restaurant, Hissyfit, after only operating for a little over a month.

Lovelace first made her presence known on the Portland restaurant scene in 2015, when her supper club, Mae, launched as a pop-up before later getting its own space in Cully. In 2019, she opened a neighboring restaurant, Yonder, a fast-casual spot serving dusted fried chicken and fluffy biscuits with sorghum butter. Then, at the beginning of the pandemic, Mae faded out in favor of the more takeout-friendly model at Yonder. 

Change came again this summer, when Lovelace closed Yonder and opened a new sit-down restaurant, Hissyfit, serving Southern ingredients with influences from koji to pajeon. But on August 15, Lovelace announced via Instagram that she would be leaving the restaurant industry, effective immediately.

“We have made the decision to walk away from the restaurant industry and seek a more gentle, joyful, sustainable life and livelihood,” the post reads. In the caption, Lovelace wrote, “Hissyfit was our hail mary, a chance to intentionally do everything our ideal way and see if it worked. ...Go support your local faves, tell them you love and appreciate them.” 

"We make this decision with full hearts and exhausted spirits,” the caption reads. “Thanks, Portland. It’s been real, it’s been fun, but it hasn’t been real fun.”

Lovelace’s path through the restaurant industry was complex. Just a year after launching her pop-up, Mae earned a spot in Portland Monthly’s Best Restaurants 2016. Lovelace was also named one of Eater’s 2016 Young Guns, achieving recognition locally and across the country. 

Then things began to bubble up in the Portland restaurant world, during the early pandemic summer of 2020, when fury over the murder of George Floyd spilled into a call for reform in nearly every corner of American life. In July of that year, Lovelace began anonymously reposting direct messages she received from restaurant employees about chefs’ toxic behavior in the workplace. For five days, the reposting continued, with allegations arising against several restaurants owner. But soon, Lovelace found herself among the accused, with employees describing their own experiences of toxic work culture at Yonder.