Who says breakfast has to consist of the same predictable lineup of eggs and pancakes? When chef Mauro Martina left the world of Michelin-starred restaurants in 2009 to open his own breakfast restaurant — OEB Breakfast in Calgary, Canada — his fine dining colleagues were shocked:
“A lot of my friends are like, ‘you come from the fine dining industry and now you’re going to be flipping eggs? What a waste!’” Martina said. “But it’s not just about that…with eggs there’s so much you can do with that ingredient. We have a sous vide machine; we get truffles from Italy…the possibilities are endless. I wanted to really showcase that breakfast can be just as fun as going for fine dining without the stuffiness.”
And now he and his business partner Christian Bullock are taking the six-unit upscale breakfast concept south of the border and will be opening the first U.S. location of OEB Breakfast this November in Scottsdale, Ariz. where many Western Canadians like to snowbird for the winter.
“You feel good about Scottsdale when you go down there,” Martina said. “It was up and coming a year ago and now it’s booming […] We’re not going to Scottsdale to stir anything up because they already have a strong culinary scene and there’s enough for everyone to go around.”
After opening the first U.S. location in late fall, Martina plans to scope out at least two more locations in the city, and will put together a U.S. team before venturing out further into other U.S. markets, while they have already planned six more locations in Canada to open over the next two years. As they expand, OEB Breakfast will also be launching franchising, although the team has not formally announced this yet.
The menu at OEB Breakfast includes upscale spins on classic breakfast items like breakfast poutines made with ingredients like poached eggs, homemade hollandaise, asiago cheese, duck confit, and short rib, and eggs benedict made with truffle mushrooms and butternut squash. Even the classic breakfast items get a classy twist like their breakfast potatoes that are always fried in duck fat, or bagels and lox that can be topped with caviar, for an average check of $24-$27 Canadian dollars ($18-$21 USD), alcohol included.
For Martina, the most crucial aspect of the OEB Breakfast brand is their boldness in menu strategy:
“If a chef says, ‘I have deer on the menu’ people are like ‘oh no, people will think of Bambi!’ or when I put rabbit on the menu people will think of Thumper,’” Martina said. “But I say I want to do a rabbit mortadella, add some pork fat and pistachios, fry it up and serve it on an English muffin with Manchego cheese and sous vide eggs, and guess what? It’s one of our best-sellers. We go out for food because we want to explore and indulge, but if you just want a two-egg breakfast, we can do that too.”
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