Chefs must have the best eating habits, right? They think about food all day long like it's their dang job (which it is) and so they must kick off every day with a whole fancypants breakfast spread that of course, they whipped up themselves, no biggie. Yeah no. Crazily enough, though their livelihood depends on a certain quantity of adventurous eating, chefs are just like us mortal folks when it comes to the first meal of the day. They're constantly on the go, they've got family to feed, they're interested in nutrition, and they've got their own morning rituals that keep them grounded.
At the recent South Beach Wine and Food Festival, Extra Crispy got a few of our favorite chefs to share their private breakfast habits.
Ming Tsai, chef/owner of Blue Ginger and host of Simply Ming
I do this religiously and it doesn't work when I'm on the road because I need my blender, but I do a shake. It's not weird. You know us chefs, we do fine on calorie intake and it's not like we need a huge breakfast, but if you don't eat breakfast, it doesn't work for your metabolism. You've gotta eat something. So I do this shake, and I used to do a whole banana but after all my research, bananas are awesome, but they're so sweet. Sugar is the death of our society. The reason behind obesity in this country is sugar, not fat, right? Anyway, it's that much of a banana [holds forefinger and thumb a few inches apart], whatever fresh berries I have, and then this Spiru-Tein soy powder, and non-sweet almond milk. I have nothing against dairy, but I don't need that fat.
I make my own dry mix with the Spiru-Tein, then I do a big scoop of this stuff called greens, which is this green powder that has every vegetable in the world, kale, broccoli, spinach, spirulina. I put hemp seed, I put acai powder—all these things that are just good for you.
So you're going to live forever?
I'm 104. That with two ice cubes and it's a big-ass shake and I drink it every day. I listen and take advice about things that work and when Mark Bittman wanted to lose a bunch of weight he did one thing I read about in an article. He said, "I'm vegetarian until dinner." When I did Next Iron Chef, I did that because I wanted to stay lean and it's not that hard. It's easy to eat vegetarian for breakfast, right? This shake energizes me, gets me through.
Marcus Samuelsson, chef/owner of Red Rooster and author of Marcus Off Duty
I really eat breakfast only on Saturday or Sunday when I can hang out long enough. Then it's very often my wife's [model Maya Haile] stews that she cooked up during the week. The best breakfast for me is Ethiopian breakfast where you take chicken doro wat and poach two eggs in there and put cottage cheese on top of that. Maybe toast. And that breakfast—even if you have Italian red sauce left over—do your eggs in that sauce. That's the only time we truly eat breakfast. Otherwise it's whooosh, out the door. On a weekend I can make a nice avocado toast for my wife when she wants it and not just slap slap go. That slower breakfast is great because hey, we're going to hang out and it's not just that we're eating. We can read the paper or check out some blogs, whatever. It's a longer thing.
Alex Raij, chef/owner of Txikito and author of The Basque Book
Fried rice sometimes, and lentils. I make a lot of eggs for my kids sometimes it involves incorporating leftover rice or lentils from the night before. And then I'll say pork chops, because I'll make a pork chop for my son's lunch and my daughter will have a pork chop for breakfast, and then I eat the grisly end.
Art Smith, chef/owner of Table Fifty-Two and author of Art Smith's Healthy Comfort
I love boiled eggs, and I put za'atar on them. Then I have a cup of Turkish coffee. Every place I travel in the world has their own take on breakfast and many times I want to return to them. Maybe I can't fly, but I can eat. I love having these wonderful little tidbits of deliciousness from my trips. Food is like a time capsule. It takes you back. So the za'atar I picked it up in Jerusalem, the Turkish coffee I picked up in Istanbul—for me, it's a way to reconnect.
Katie Button, chef/owner of Cúrate and author of Cúrate
My first weird habit is that I usually don't actually eat breakfast. It's not that I don't love it—I love breakfast and breakfast foods—there's just something about the morning where coffee is about all I can digest on a day-to-day basis. I don't know if that's healthy. But my big breakfast thing is sausage gravy and biscuits. When I was a little kid was going out to visit my dad's family in Wenatchee, Washington, there's an old diner on the way from the city. My dad and I would both order the biscuits with sausage gravy, and they would come—you know the point where you can't even see the biscuits anymore, or the plate, just the rim? It's all gravy. That's my style.
At home, my favorite breakfast is gravy that I made out of collard green potlikker. This winter, I've been perfecting my collard greens and after I make them, I take them out and keep the ham hock in the potlikker and then reduce it way down and then just make a roux. I'll keep it in my freezer and then I have gravy any time I want.