8 Chefs Reveal What They Eat for Breakfast on Their Busiest Days

Because the cooks need fuel just as much as their ovens do.

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Close up of fried egg for breakfast.
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You might think that restaurant chefs would skip breakfast and sleep in after a late dinner shift, grab a cup of coffee and dub it "breakfast," or snag something from a deli on the way into work for their a.m. meal. But many of the eight chefs we spoke to agree with Felicia Mayden, executive pastry chef at Lovage at the Ace Hotel Chicago, who told us, "As cliche as it may sound, breakfast truly is the most important meal of the day."

5 Chef Breakfasts You, Too, Can DIY

From simple to spectacular, prepare to be inspired to upgrade from your usual bowl of cold cereal with these inspired ideas for breakfast from chefs across the country. In addition to dishing about what they eat, they're explaining exactly how you can follow their lead and make the recipes in your own kitchen.

1. A Bagel Sandwich

Starting with Mayden, she says, "I've made a conscious effort to eat something for breakfast every day, even if it's simply a piece of fruit."

If she can have her way, though, she'll carve out about 15 minutes to whip up her signature breakfast bagel sandwich. To try it yourself, start by slicing an asiago or everything bagel in half.

Then, "cook a few strips of bacon in a non-stick skillet on medium-low until crispy, flipping halfway through for an even cook. Once the bacon is done, set it on a plate with paper towels to allow the excess fat to drain," she explains.

Swirl one tablespoon of oil (she uses grapeseed) in that same skillet and crank up the heat to medium. Crack two eggs into a bowl, season with salt and pepper, then beat until completely combined. Pour the eggs into the prepared skillet, and swirl them with a rubber spatula until the eggs are fully scrambled and cooked.

Now it's time to assemble: "I start with the bottom half of the bagel, add a swipe of cream cheese, top with scrambled eggs, a slice or handful of shredded Cheddar cheese, layer on the cooked bacon, and lastly swipe the top half of the bagel with cream cheese before sandwiching it all together."

Jacob Solomon, executive chef at Testaccio in Chicago, echoes this sentiment, admitting "Almost everyday I have a bagel sandwich, it's the perfect meal to wrap up and eat on-the-go."

Solomon layers a generous amount of cream cheese on two bagel halves and pairs this with an iced coffee. And when he wants something extra filling, "I'll add a fried egg, sliced avocado, turkey, and cheese. If you're not a fan of bagels, it's easy to switch it up and use your favorite hearty bread or a lettuce 'bun,'" he suggests.

2. Fruit-Topped Muesli or Fruit, Yogurt, and Granola

Ashleigh Fleming, the executive chef and managing director of Blue Jay Bistro in Littleton, N.C., prefers to get up early "by some standards," she laughs, "and have a quiet breakfast around 6:30 a.m. This time helps me prepare and be centered for the rest of the day. I also try to complete a pre-workday workout and I can't do that on an empty stomach!"

So to power up, Fleming generally pairs an Americano with a bowl of muesli topped with local peanut butter and seasonal fruit.

Cleetus Friedman, the director of hospitality at Camp Aramoni in Tonica, Ill. adores breakfast so much, he launched a breakfast for dinner-themed supper club at Camp Aramoni.

He chooses to keep it simple on days he's on duty, adding, "My daily breakfast is a simple one, just some cashew yogurt with fresh berries and grain-free granola."

During the week, Hunter Evans, chef, founder and owner of Elvie's in Jackson, Miss., has a similar approach: "I get to the restaurant around 7:30 a.m., so I look for something pretty easy, but I also need something that will give me energy for the day. My wife and I always start with coffee first," he says. "Granola with yogurt is my go-to at home."

3. Avocado Toast All the Ways

While Evans often builds a granola and yogurt bowl on restaurant shift days, "in a perfect world I would start the day off with freshly-squeezed orange juice, espresso, avocado toast, and a side of soft scrambled eggs," he says.

His go-to avocado toast starts with "really good sourdough bread, toasted on both sides. Season the avocado with Maldon Sea Salt, and add sliced cherry tomatoes, sliced radishes, and pickled shallots sliced very thin and tossed with sherry vinegar. Top the toast with a little more salt, freshly-cracked black pepper, and some chives. Quick, delicious, and a great breakfast to get the day started," Evans adds.

Andrea Belfiore, chef and founder of Italia Like Locals, a virtual-cooking class platform, has a similar morning meal, which he looks forward to every day: "I enjoy breakfast very much and rarely skip it."

He prefers to mix things up, noting that way, "I never get bored, it needs to get me excited to start my day! The only thing that stays the same is the espresso, no sugar," Belfiore says. "Lately, my favorite breakfast is perfectly soft scrambled eggs with avocado on some focaccia."

So how do you score the elusive perfect soft scramble mentioned in both of the aforementioned avocado toast breakfast ideas? Belfiore explains: In a non-stick skillet over medium heat, add a tablespoon or so of extra virgin olive oil. In a bowl, whisk two eggs with two tablespoons of grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Grana Padano and season with a pinch of salt and freshly-ground black pepper.

"When the oil is really hot, almost to a smoking point, move the pan so that the oil spreads all over the surface and then pour in the eggs. Turn off the heat after 10 seconds. With a spatula or wooden spoon, move the eggs around until they're done," Belfiore says.

Since Jakob Howard, sous chef at Bradford House in Oklahoma City, Okla., enjoys eating a protein-packed meal first thing in the morning, his breakfast is about the same as the other avocado options, just sans bread and with sausage on the side.

"This is a very simple and easy meal that I can make in under 15 minutes every morning," he says of this combo that makes him stay energized for hours.

4. Mushroom and Cheese Omelet with Bacon

Keep those eggs handy to recreate Friedman's favorite weekend family breakfast. On days off, he says, "I love to make omelets for my wife. The standard in our house is a mushroom and cheese omelet with a side of crispy bacon."

Start by cooking a pound of bacon à la our Oven-Baked Bacon method. ("Pro tip: when it looks done, let it go just a little bit longer so it gets nice and crispy," Friedman advises.)

Then for the omelet, sauté sliced portobello mushrooms and diced yellow onion in butter with salt and pepper. As that cooks, shred some cheese (two- to four-year aged Cheddar is his top pick), then slice or chiffonade some fresh basil.

In a bowl, whisk together three eggs with one tablespoon of water. In a pan over medium heat, add a pat of butter. After that melts, cook the egg mixture until set, flip, then layer on the sautéed mushroom, onions and cheese. Garnish with basil, pair with the bacon, and devour.

5. Homemade Scones

"I absolutely love breakfast, but I am not a morning person," says Sharyn Harding, corporate pastry chef at Heirloom Hospitality in Detroit, so she plans ahead by freezing a big batch of scone dough. That way, she can just grab one from the freezer, pop it on a sheet pan and bake until warm and golden brown. (An air fryer would also be an excellent option to heat these through!)

"Take a basic scone dough, and add your favorite flavors, but try to stay away from ingredients that have too much moisture," Harding says. "Then pop them in the oven straight from the freezer."

Our Frozen Blueberry Scones are a great guide to talk you through the exact process and measurements. Simply mix the dough, shape the scones, then freeze them in a single layer on a sheet pan. Transfer to a freezer-safe storage bag (such as Ziploc Freezer Quart Bags), and freeze until ready to bake and eat.

If blueberries aren't your jam, here are three more flavor combinations Harding has been loving lately:

  • toasted hazelnuts cinnamon chocolate chips
  • lemon zest dried cherries
  • white chocolate chips macadamia nuts

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