Tag Archives: restaurant

The Long and Winding Road to Richmond’s Most Ambitious New Restaurant—in One Dish

Out of all the dishes a chef envisions, tests, and eventually serves, how does one become a restaurant’s signature? For Longoven’s Andrew Manning, Megan Fitzroy Phelan, and Patrick Phelan, the defining menu item is the thing they’ve never been able to stop fiddling with: a savory egg custard that they’ve topped with everything from uni to summer flowers. As the team journeyed from DIY pop-up stalwarts to the owners of a new brick-and-mortar location, a version of this dish has always anchored their constantly changing restaurant.

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Photo by Fred + Elliott

November 2016: Jasmine Rice Custard

Two years into the Longoven bi-weekly pop-up, Manning wants to put a savory custard on the menu (he’s a chawanmushi fanatic). This month he finally does, mixing jasmine-rice-steeped milk with egg yolks, steaming it, then topping with crunchy cauliflower mushrooms, yuzu jelly, and Maine uni (Phelan’s a fanatic). After the chefs wrap their day jobs (butchering, catering, and teaching pastry), the three refine the dish through late-night phone calls. In the end, the uni custard scores with diners. That’s validation for the team, who are balancing their ambitious roving restaurant with regular work.

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Photo by Fred + Elliott

August 2017: Corn Custard

It’s summer, and Manning sees blue crabs and corn everywhere, so he makes a corn custard covered with fat hunks of Chesapeake blue crab, a double dose of shiitake (jelly and mushrooms), seaweed-cured egg, and shiso. More late-night calls ensue as they finalize this month’s pop-up menu. It’s been a hectic ride: They’re six months into the renovation of Longoven’s future home.

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Photo by Fred + Elliott

June 2018: Asparagus Custard

More blue crab! Manning plays off the classic pairing of crab and asparagus with this summer-flower-crowned custard. This iteration earns a spot on Longoven’s debut menu in the new space, a familiar note among the chaos of opening. “Surreal” is the way the chefs describe the first night. Sometimes they forget they’re not a pop-up and don’t have to crank out 38 dishes at once. It’s not until they get back to their homes, late after service, that they realize they’re finally doing what they’ve been dreaming of the past four years.


Discovering the Diversity of Atlanta’s Restaurant

At 8:30 in the morning on January 3, 2018, I was standing in a high school classroom—a room I once took Spanish in—staring at four freshman, four sophomores, four juniors, and four seniors. It was my first day of a monthlong trip to Atlanta, the longest stint I’d spent back home since the summer of 2006. Launching into a monologue about what this creative writing class was all about, I was thrilled by the sheer amount of knowledge I had to give to these 16 lucky children. This rules…for them, I thought. Twelve minutes later I was through all my material. It was 8:42. The class ended at 10:15. By 10:30 I was back in my car, questioning many of my decisions: asking to teach a year earlier, re-asking via email on a day I especially hated New York, getting my bluff called, saying yes, and then actually showing up. By no stretch of the imagination had that morning gone well. And then there was that whole “Atlanta expert” farce I sensed was starting to unravel as I talked to the students—the reality that with every passing year living in Brooklyn, I was becoming less comfortable talking about the city that raised me.

I’d returned to the car to briefly hide, but then I realized I was actually done for the day. I could leave, without getting in trouble. And, to be honest, I was exhausted. So, on day one of the new job, I was going to go take a nap at 11:15 a.m. A role model, yes. Yes, I was.

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Photo by Emma Fishman

Driving on I-285 through downtown Atlanta

My mother’s house, the site of my January bed, is in south Atlanta. It’s in a part of the metropolitan area, Jonesboro, that I’ve spent over a decade going out of my way to learn nothing about. Because it’s not my Atlanta. My first home, in the majority black southwest Atlanta, was always the constant: the place that never stopped raising me, feeding me, teaching me.

Heading home there was a car accident on the highway, creating a traffic jam. Realizing I’d never taken side streets from my current location and in no hurry whatsoever, I put my phone’s maps on the “avoid highways” setting. It felt silly to use GPS in my hometown, but now that I was taking the street, I needed it.

Driving down Jonesboro Road, only a few miles from my mother’s house, I passed restaurants with signs in a variety of languages. It wasn’t just a handful of places between two stoplights; this was a legitimate corridor.

Witnessing this, I was reminded of the reality of the highway. Such is the case with most of life’s efficiencies, the trade-off for speed was ignorance. And on this drive I realized the need to get from point A to B as quickly and mindlessly as possible was partially responsible for my increasingly disingenuous relationship with my hometown. Taking only the highway keeps you in the dark, by passing over neighborhoods, homes, people, and other cultures. You miss things: the stuff you didn’t know, or the stuff you simply don’t want to see.

Almost home, I drove under a sign for Nam Dae Mun Farmers Market that I’d seen off the highway for years. I knew it to be a farmers’ market of sorts, but because it was one exit before my mother’s house—an exit already equipped with a grocery store—it was nothing more than a place out of the way.

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Photo by Emma Fishman

Sampling at Nam Dae Mun Farmers Market

I pulled over and walked in, and five minutes later I was Mary Tyler Moore, smiling and throwing my hat in the air. Because I was surrounded by everything and everyone. The market has South Korean ties, but this was not simply a massive Korean grocery store. This was as international as I’d seen (or heard) a single establishment in some time, Atlanta or otherwise. There was a Nigerian couple arguing over whether they should get the $1.49 white yam or the $2.49 Ghana yam. And actually knowing the difference. There was a man staring at a box of rambutan, a Koosh-ball-looking thing I did not know existed. And there was aisle 10, which advertised itself as the home of “Jamaican Seasoning, Colombian Seasoning, Indian Seasoning, Jamaican Food, Colombian Food, Canned Fish, Indian Food.”

I was in paradise, and I wasn’t even hungry. Catching myself in all this excitement, I paused to realize that something about me had just changed.

The longer I’ve lived in New York City, the more I—like many others—have prided myself on finding gems within the boroughs. You know, Uzbek food in Rego Park, Senegalese food in Harlem, Russian food in Brighton Beach. Why was I so curious and adventurous up North but once back at home the polar opposite?

After Shazaming two K-pop music videos that were playing in the market’s restaurant, Eat More Korean, I walked out, pondering that question. It didn’t take long to get to the answer, and I couldn’t tell if it was a source of embarrassment or pride. Or a little of both.

My Atlanta, which aligns with much of the history of Atlanta, is black and white. I grew up in southwest Atlanta, a historically black part of town, and eventually went to school from fifth through 12th grades at the Paideia School near Emory University in a more white part of town. It’s also the South, so there’s, you know, hundreds of years of fraught history between black people and white people. The two groups were all I saw and all I knew, so that became all that was. And while that could create tension, it did not feel complicated. There was nothing more than us and them.

Atlanta has long been thought of as a black city, so much so that it’s been dubbed Black Mecca on numerous occasions. And I’m one of many people who never want Atlanta to stop being (or thought of) as a black city. I love our black mayors, I love our black people, I love our black style and sound.

Ever since the Olympics came to town in 1996, the city has marketed itself as an international city. And not just because of the airport but because of the “melting pot” that Atlanta was becoming. I knew that, and the data supported it, with the Asian and Latino populations growing at a rapid pace between the 2000 and 2010 censuses.

Yet I still thought of Atlanta as a two-horse town: black and white. Because when you only acknowledge a place as this or that, both sides get a sizable slice of the pie. But when you add other groups to the mix, just by way of basic math, your share—and your perceived importance—decreases. For the first time I was conflicted about what I wanted from my once and hopefully future home, the place that emboldened my grandparents, raised my mother’s entire generation, and gave me a proud black foundation to stand on.

So on this day, I finally stopped pretending no one else lived in Atlanta. And with that, I had places to see. Streets to take instead of highways. And the best way I knew how to learn more: Eat.

My first stop was the Burmese restaurant Royal Myanmar Cuisine, which closed a few months after my visit. I let out a laugh as I pulled up: This place was so Atlanta, not least because it’s in the same strip mall as the famed strip club Strokers. There was something oddly calming about eating mote hin gar—the national dish of Myanmar, a delicious fish soup that intimidated me at first with its reddish-orange hue—as people were beginning to daytime file into Strokers for any number of reasons (most likely the many televisions).

A few days later, right after finishing my first week of classes (which felt like a month), my friend John recommended Mamak, a Malaysian restaurant, and Woo Nam Jeong Stone Bowl House, a Korean restaurant, both located on Buford Highway, the well-known international corridor. Growing up, what I knew about Buford Highway was that it was where everyone else lived. I understood that to mean Asian and Latino, nothing more. Because it didn’t fit my convenient binary, I treated it like it wasn’t Atlanta.

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Photo by Emma Fishman

Curried chicken in puff pastry at Mamak

When I walked into Mamak, there were only two people dining, an Asian man and woman. I didn’t know what to order, so I eavesdropped, perhaps overly assuming that they did. I was partially correct: The woman’s parents were from Malaysia, and she was explaining the dishes to the man, who was Japanese-American and knew nothing of the cuisine. Listening to that unfold, it reminded me of how long I’d exercised a catchall to diversity among people of Asian descent and Latin descent in Atlanta. Did I do it in New York? Again, no. But at home, still, yes.

I sat in the back of the restaurant, closest to the kitchen, which proved to be an accidental stroke of genius. Every time an order was ready, the server would walk right by me, and more often than not, a whiff of curry found a way to hover, a welcome surprise each time.

By the time I made it to Stone Bowl, I was already full by way of half an order of laksa, a delicious coconut-milk curry. But the energy in the restaurant gave me another wind, with groups chatting enthusiastically over banchan, a change from the quieter Mamak. I ordered the bibimbap, rice crisping on the edges of the hot bowl, and finished the entire thing.

During my third week of teaching, I’d finally become a teacher. And as it is with small schools, everyone has six jobs, so my days of leaving right after class were no more. On one of those long days, I hung around until after basketball practice to talk to two students, as well as to do my biannual check to see if they’ve hung my jersey in the rafters. Then I drove to a restaurant I’d seen written up, Miller Union, to take a friend out as a thank-you for speaking to my class. All I knew about this restaurant was that the chef, Steven Satterfield, had recently won a James Beard Award. I felt like I was eating at the best Southern restaurant in Manhattan, which I mean as a compliment.

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Photo by Emma Fishman

Mussels and chorizo in squash seed broth at Miller Union

Toward the end of that week, my same friend John demanded that I go with him to We Suki Suki in east Atlanta, which is part of a food hall called the Global Grub Collective (also home to a place that makes sushi burritos—a thing that I now know exists).

Hours after utterly destroying a banh mi at We Suki Suki, I turned my “avoid highways” mode back on. I pulled up a map of the city’s best restaurants on my phone to see if I was going to pass by one en route. Looking at the map, I realized something I’d overlooked in my newfound glee: There wasn’t a single place below Interstate 20—meaning on the south side of town. Yes, expert recommendations had expanded my horizons about pockets of the city that I’d never explored, but the part of Atlanta I knew the best was widely ignored. Instead of dipping back into my old arsenal of soul food and more soul food, I just started driving. It’s a freeing feeling to take right turns simply because you want to know what’s to the right.


Photo by Emma Fishman

We Suki Suki’s vegan pho with tofu and mushrooms

After half an hour I ended up at Jamrock South.

When I left Atlanta at 18, I thought I knew all the different types of black people. And then I went to college and was surrounded by black folk who were not the black people I grew up around, who were descendants of American slavery. I met first-and second-generation people from Ethiopia and Haiti and Jamaica and Nigeria, which exposed me to the different ways we were all raised, as well as the similarities of our life experiences that come from being black. One of those differences was the food that was put on a pedestal.

I didn’t know anything about beef patties until I made it to New York. Goat? Not really high on the food chain. At Jamrock I had both. Did the restaurant stop me in my tracks with flavors I’d never experienced? No. But I was happy to see a diversity of tastes on the southside just as there was on the northside, coupled with the added flair of Instagram flyers advertising parties like “#BDE: A Monthly Soiree.” West Indian cuisine and culture weren’t something I could enjoy only when I left Atlanta. It was at Jamrock. And the more I looked, it was all around me.

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Photo by Emma Fishman

Billy Ellis at Jamrock South

Nine months after my teaching gig, I was back in Atlanta for a music festival. I missed my students, some of whom were in college now, some of whom I owed an email to, all of whom I thought about often. I also missed having a car and driving around exploring.

Over the past year I’d grown to love Peruvian food, thanks to my girlfriend, whose family is Peruvian. Until this day, driving around town, I’d never considered Peruvian food in Atlanta. On Yelp, I typed in “Peruvian,” and there was a restaurant, Las Brasas, less than a mile away in Decatur, where, as they say, it’s greater.

I was excited to eat but also to report back to my girlfriend. Sure, it was just one restaurant. But running through my heart was this: Yes, Atlanta is my city, the black capital of America, but it could also be her city too. And wouldn’t you know it, one day our children could see themselves represented throughout this city.

I didn’t say all that in the text. I just sent a photo of a bowl of arroz chaufa, a fried rice dish, with the text “It’s lit.” I boxed most of it up and took it home. That evening I made a plate of the chaufa for my mom, who had had Peruvian food once with my girlfriend’s family. I was running out the door as she took her first bite.

“Ooh, yes.”

I always felt like I was waiting on my city to catch up to me. But in reality, I just needed to catch up to Atlanta. All of Atlanta.


How Tiny Lou’s Restaurant Turned Its X-Rated History into Its Plush, Neon-Lit Future

Lou may have gotten the name, but the Clermont’s most famous dancer-in-residence is Anita Rae Strange, a.k.a. Blondie. Nicknamed for her trademark platinum wig, she’s been performing for more than three decades and is still going strong at 61. Pastry chef Claudia Martinez pays homage in the form of dessert: the Ode to Blondie is a brown butter blondie with buttermilk ice cream, hazelnut crémeux, and curried bananas flambé. “Blondie is simply a classic,” she says. “Everyone in Atlanta knows who she is, and she has not changed or tried to be anything else for anyone.”


Genevieve Villamora on What It’s Like to Run a Restaurant in D.C. Right Now

Genevieve Villamora is the co-owner of Bad Saint, the Filipino restaurant in Northwest D.C. famous for its long lines and unbeatable adobo. She’s also an anti-violence activist who’s worked at the Georgetown University Women’s Center and as a crisis hotline responder. Here she talks about how she’s handling the Kavanaugh hearing and surrounding events personally and with her restaurant staff and patrons.

Overwhelmed. It’s a state I am intimately familiar with these days. I binge-consume the news, and lately the news makes me feel like I’m coming unhinged. It’s why I sometimes pull the covers up to my chin and stay in bed an extra hour. And why I have been doing deep dives into the “2 Dope Queens” archives for comic relief. It was definitely how I felt last week, as the tension built up to the day of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford’s appearance on Capitol Hill.

I listened to her testimony on my phone all morning as I drove to my haircut and picked up flowers for the restaurant. The sound of her voice breaking put a lump in my throat. I yelled at the radio. I wept in my car. When her testimony ended, I turned the radio off. I had reached my emotional breaking point. Though I wanted to curl up in the fetal position and ugly cry all afternoon, I had to find a way to regroup. My day was only half over. A busy night of dinner service lay ahead.

I had been at this breaking point before, overflowing with the emotion of other people’s stories. As a college student, I organized Take Back the Night events on campus to raise awareness of violence against women. Each year we had a speakout, where people could share their experiences of sexual violence. It was the first time I realized that survivors are all around us, all the time everywhere. At the bus stop. At the PTA meeting. At the doctor’s office.

My first job out of college was at a local rape crisis center in D.C. I have vivid, visceral memories of the shifts I worked on the crisis hotline. Every time it rang, the voice on the other end yanked me out of my own reality and into their story. Many of the survivors I encountered had never spoken of their assault to anyone. Almost without exception, they shared experiences of violence that had happened years before. The lingering trauma haunted them daily.

Once you grasp the pervasiveness of sexual violence in our society and the world, it’s not something you can unsee. The voices of these survivors have been whispering in my ear since Dr. Ford came forward.

Their stories are powerful, and they’ve seeped into our conversations at the restaurant. We analyze breaking news as we set up the dining room before service. Sometimes it comes up with guests, as it did recently with a journalist covering American politics for the BBC. Other times, it feels better to focus all my energy on my work—getting our guests a good meal and a respite from whatever is outside our door.

Working in a restaurant can be depleting. It can also be surprisingly restorative, especially in these times. What is more fundamental than needing to eat? What brings us together better than shared food and drink? People transform over the course of the meal. They arrive with brows furrowed from hunger or a tough day, and with every bite they get a little more relaxed, a little more themselves. I get so much satisfaction from playing a role in that transformation.

A couple weeks ago, we decided to end our daily staff meetings with music—songs that give us life—inspired by the folks over at NPR’s Code Switch podcast. At the end of every episode, no matter what the topic, Code Switch ends the show with the guest (or one of the hosts) sharing a song that is giving them life. For two weeks, we jammed out to Mariah Carey, cumbia, Living Colour, and a riot of other bumpin’ tunes. It was something small, but it really helped. As people who expend a lot of energy taking care of other people, it felt good to do a little something for ourselves.

This country is in a uncomfortable moment. We’re filled with tension and conflict and acrimony and angst. Though it’s distressing, I believe that discomfort can be a force for positive change, growth, and justice.

Until then, I may continue staying in bed with the covers pulled up to my chin for a while. I may start binge-watching Game of Thrones from Season 1 (again). But I’ll keep showing up at the restaurant. I’ll keep adding names to the waitlist and pouring wine. And today I draw great strength from the words of Maria Gallagher, one of the women who fatefully held the elevator door open last Friday.

“Look at me when I’m talking to you….

Don’t look away from me. Look at me….”

Antoni Porowski Is “Nervous as Hell” for You to Try His New Restaurant

Antoni Porowski isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel with his new healthy fast-casual restaurant Village Den, but he wants to be the one steering the car. His first step in creating the menu ahead of the all-day restaurant’s opening next week in New York City’s West Village was to accept an ingredient he has a complicated relationship with. Porowski initially fought to keep avocados off the menu entirely because of the reputation he got on Queer Eye for his “obsession” with using them in every dish. Eventually, he caved, putting avocado on a citrus salad and a tartine topped with pickled beets for a crunchy, colorful nod to his Polish heritage. “I hate the word ‘brand,’ but I have to have a conversation with myself and figure out why it’s important to me,” he explained of his recipe choices. “I can’t just have something made up and handed to me. I have to have pride in it, or I won’t serve it.”

Although most of the menu was created by Porowski (who, full disclosure, I’ve known prior to this interview; we also taught a cheese class together at Murray’s), the restaurant is a joint venture between him and friends-turned-business partners Lisle Richards and Eric Marx of The Metric restaurant group. They met in 2012, and then started keeping each other in check with a workout club two years ago, taking classes at Barry’s Bootcamp, Tone House, and SoulCycle… and then immediately finding food that wouldn’t undo all of the work they just did. They usually ended up at The Wayfarer, one of Richards and Marx’s restaurants in Midtown Manhattan, for grilled salmon and vegetables to refuel. The routine inspired them to collaborate for what Porowski describes as a “health and wellness concept that was still delicious and flavorful, but not super precious or not too much of one thing.” As soon as the original Village Den, a neighborhood standby diner for 36 years, closed in March 2018, the trio started workshopping ideas to respect the heritage of the space while modernizing it. Ultimately they kept the name and the original awning while revamping the menu.

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Photo by Emma Fishman

Porowski described the Sicilian C-bomb salad as “kind of a crunchy, sweet, salty, spicy, everything salad.”

He and the team spent three weeks testing recipes with Wayfarer chef Chris Shea, who helped “trim down my 35-ingredient ideas down to the seven most integral.” Healthier meals inspired by TV dinners are the core of the restaurant, with a counter of mix and match options like macadamia nut-crusted mahi-mahi, turkey meatloaf, garlic-roasted broccolini, spaghetti squash (seasoned with Montreal steak spice and maple syrup, inspired by a childhood favorite dish), and a healthy twist on his Polish mother’s famous cabbage rolls filled with ground chicken and cauliflower rice.

There will also be fully assembled bowls (like citrus-poached salmon with smashed peas, purple potatoes, roasted broccolini, and kale crisps); salads (like the Sicilian C-bomb, a vitamin C-heavy dish with citrus, fennel, spinach, pomegranate, avocado, pistachio, and Tajin); breakfast items (like overnight oats and a chicken Scotch egg); and coffee and smoothies. The entire all-day menu is “accidentally gluten-free,” including scallion-almond pancakes with Green Goddess dip inspired by his sister Karolina, who has multiple sclerosis and introduced him to the functional medicine side of alternative flours. “Whether people are keto, vegan, vegetarian, paleo, gluten-free, pescatarian, or have whatever dietary needs, I want them to be able to find something here.”

Who is this restaurant really for, though? Porowski is aware that the people checking it out initially will likely be fans of Queer Eye, but he hopes that will change over time. “I want longevity. I don’t listen to music that I won’t like in a month. I fell in love with The Strokes when I was 20 and I’m 34 now and still listen to them religiously. I want the restaurant to have [that same kind of] staying power.” If all goes well, he has dreams of expanding throughout New York, with an “evolved version that is a little different, but still keeps the mainstays we’re known for.”

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Photo by Emma Fishman

Porowski surrounded by plants that he will “make sure are always watered” at Village Den.

Fans of the show trying to catch a glimpse at Porowski behind the counter will have to wait. Currently he is filming the third season of Queer Eye in Kansas City, Missouri, but he’s been back and forth to check in on the restaurant’s progress. The entire process of opening a restaurant has taught him that he can’t do everything himself. “It’s hard not to want to be involved in every single part of the thing, because I feel incredibly vulnerable putting my food out there,” he admitted. “I still think it’s weird that people are interested in what I like and what I represent.”

For now, he’s learning to let go. “It makes me nervous as hell to be away, because it has to be good. My biggest nightmare is that something doesn’t have enough salt. If it doesn’t, who are people going to come back to? Me. I can’t be physically there every day … but I can set recipes and flavors up. That’s all I can do: make it something I believe in, and hope others believe in it, too.”

These Restaurant Pancakes Go Way Beyond Buttermilk

No disrespect to that box of Bisquick you grew up with, but did you know you can make pancakes with sourdough and buckwheat and even coffee flour? Chefs do. Across the country, they’re upping their breakfast games, transforming the ho-hum flapjack into a must-order item. We talked to six chefs who are making versions we’d love to wake up to any day about their secret weapon ingredients.

Barney Hannagan, Chef, Proud Mary, Portland, OR

“Our signature hotcake uses a batter I’ve been perfecting with another chef since 2013. We make our batter fresh to keep it fluffier and use a self rising flour to make them more consistent. We throw a cookie crumb on there, shower it with edible flowers like nasturtium to give pops of those pinks and purples to go with the strawberries, and finish it off with a dulce de leche whipped ricotta.” (This is the pancake pictured above.)

Alex Manley, Director of Baking and Pastry, June’s All Day, Austin

“We love leavening batter with our mother, a wild yeast starter we use for our country loaves. Sourdough pancakes have a nice tang, are thinner than classic buttermilk pancakes, and have a texture that’s less cakey and more airy.”

Emily Yuen, Executive Chef, Bessou, NYC

“To make our Japanese-style pancakes nice and tall, we whip egg whites and fold them into the batter. I love how they get crispy edges from the sizzling pan we pour the batter into yet remain light and fluffy on the inside.”

Roxana Jullapat, Baker and Co-Owner, Friends & Family, L.A.

“Because it’s naturally free of gluten, buckwheat is easy to stir in vigorously without making tough pancakes; in fact, the buckwheat makes them quite tender. The flavor is subtle and aromatic but also has a nice earthiness.”

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Photo by Dylan + Jeni

The buckwheat pancake from Friends & Family gets drizzled with maple syrup.

Jason Wilson, Chef-Owner, The Lakehouse, Bellevue, WA

“We make our pancakes with coffee flour, which is made by milling the usually discarded coffee fruit into a powder. It doesn’t taste like coffee—there are more floral, citrus, and roasted-fruit notes. I pair it with cocoa powder for rich flavor plus vitamins, fiber, and protein.”

Jaime Young, Chef and Partner, Sunday in Brooklyn, Brooklyn

“Adding malt powder (made from roasted barley) to our pancakes gives them a deep caramelized flavor profile. We top the pancakes with hazelnut maple praline sauce and brown butter to accentuate those caramelized notes.”

Guy Turland, Chef-Owner, Bondi Harvest, Santa Monica, CA

“We put puréed vegetables like butternut squash and pumpkin into our batter in the fall and zucchini in the summer. Anything with natural sweetness works. We combine it with kefir for tang and a little extra rise.”

Now go ahead and make some pancakes yourself: