This is the first in a new series of essays we’ll be posting over the next month in which the people who make egg run talk about why they choose to do this work. The series itself will be part of an expanded version of the “News and Journal” section of the site, which has heretofore been exclusively about the farm. We’ll still write about the farm, of course, but we’ll also write about the restaurant, food policy, new ventures, interesting recipes, and even the music that keeps egg humming.
This post’s author, Rafa Eaton, is an Oregon native who’s been cooking at egg for a year and a half. He was already an experienced breakfast specialist before he came to work here, and here he explains what draws him to get up at the crack of dawn to face down case after case of eggs.
The chef was in the basement when my first order for over-easy eggs came in. I’d seen the chef make hundreds of eggs; it didn’t look hard. Still, it was frightening. With a knot in my stomach, I cracked two eggs into a pan; one broke. Another two eggs went in, but flipping them proved to be a disaster. By my fifth attempt, tickets had begun to pile up on the rail, and another cook had tried to help me, unsuccessfully. I gave up, and ran to the basement to grab the chef. He walked onto the line, grabbed a pan, and made two picture-perfect eggs in a matter of seconds. “Don’t worry,” he said, “it gets easier.”
That was about 300,000 eggs ago, not including those first ten that I destroyed. I have been cooking professionally for eleven years now, and seven of those years I have primarily cooked breakfast. I remember what my chef said every day, and every time I flipped an egg. “Eggs are a challenge,” he said. “Breakfast is a challenge. Simplicity is what makes cooking breakfast so hard.” I can read as many books as there are on cooking breakfast, but those books won’t show me how to make a perfect pancake; I could have an extensive conversation with the world’s greatest short-order cook, but it won’t help me one bit when it comes to my cooking. Learning the skills takes practice, experience, and technique.
This is what is so exciting about cooking breakfast. It requires a certain dedication to your own sense of quality. Another chef once told me that an egg would never lie; it would show me exactly how good I was. Every egg I that make reflects this idea, in that I’m not just making it for the customer (surprise!), I’m challenging myself as well. I still mess up eggs sometimes. But it’s infinitely rewarding, that moment the egg comes down in the pan and it’s still perfect. Making eggs may not seem like a big deal to some people, but to me and the other cooks at egg, it is important, because each and every one reflects our commitment to doing the simplest things well, and that isn’t always easy.