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Eggslut: How one simple ingredient proved the key to success

By: Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Previous Article Queen of the East

A little mashed potato, an egg, chives, and salt. Sounds like the humblest of all leftovers, but one breakfast fan on America’s West Coast has made it The Next Big Thing. Eggslut, Alvin Cailan’s frivolous-in-name-only casual dining concept, has become a Mecca for feel-good foodies from LA to Kuwait. Now, the mini-chain is finally making its way to Europe, and soon Londoners will have a chance to discover the simple perfection of Calain’s egg-cellent idea.

The ultimate hangover food: a Breakfast Club for the morning after

Los Angeles has two types of Sunday-morning people. One wakes up at the first crack of dawn, mixes up a green smoothie, and jogs enthusiastically into the new day. And then there’s the other type, the ones headed to Eggslut, with a cup of coffee clutched in one quivering hand and bits of confetti in their hair from the night before. Blinking sleepily as their bleary eyes adjust to daylight, they shuffle over to Hangover HQ for a curative breakfast. Good things take time, though: the line outside Eggslut in Grand Central Market is among the hall’s most fascinating attractions. Even today, years after the first Eggslut opened its doors, hungry customers regularly queue up for an hour or more for a piping-hot brioche sandwich.

The chain’s signature dish is a dollop of smooth potato puree in a jar, topped with an egg and coddled gently in a simmering bain-marie for an hour. A few snippets of fresh chives and a little sel gris from the Atlantic coast put the finishing touches on the creamy concoction. The casual-dining chain’s eyebrow-raising name is based on a slightly different connotation of slut: In the mid-2000s, the term “eggslut” became a popular phrase among foodies, used to describe people who served absolutely everything, from asparagus to Bolognese, topped with an egg.  Alvin Cailan, the restaurant’s Filipino-American creator, is a self-described eggslut whose idea for the chain came from all the scrambled egg-based hangover food he cooked for himself and his friends after nights on the town. A passion for breakfast and a killer headache – who knew they’d add up to a successful business concept?

 

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Alvin Cailan: Brioche savant

This may sound like the opening scene of a cheesy 90’s movie, but Alvin Cailan literally started his road to the American dream as a dishwasher. Cailand grew up in one of LA’s more hard-boiled ‘hoods, and his parents got him the job when he was 17, figuring hard work would keep him off the streets and out of trouble. The plan worked: by the time the future Eggslut founder finished his senior year of high school, he had already moved from the dish pit to a management job. Even after completing a business degree and dabbling briefly in construction, his heart still belonged to the kitchen. He left the position with a clear goal and a massive severance check, two key building blocks for his budding culinary career.

After studying at Oregon Culinary Institute, Alvin Cailan spent six months working under two-Michelin-starred chef Matthew Lighter. Together, they helped Castagna earn the title “Restaurant of the Year,” but it was no walk in the park – the Eggslut remembers those months as the hardest of his life. Later, he spent time at Elias Cairo’s Olympic Provisions, Bouchon, and The French Laundry. After spending some time as Michael Hannigan’s chef de partie at Oregon’s Ten 01, Alvin Cailan went back to LA, where he worked at Spago and then Hatfield’s. Soon after returning to his old ‘hood, he came to a realization: his hometown had plenty of fast food and no shortage of fancy brunch places, but it was sorely lacking in anything in between. It needed a “feel-good” breakfast option, a place catering to all those lost Sunday-morning souls wandering the streets of LA searching for hangover food.

 

A breakfast El Dorado on wheels

In 2011, Alvin Cailan sunk his savings into “Old Bessie,” a white food truck armed with griddle and grill. His foodie friends shook their heads in egg-sasperation, but Cailan was undeterred – he set about turning Old Bessie into a breakfast sandwich-mobile. He knew he had enough money for six months, so he created a starting business plan for Eggslut as a pop-up restaurant. As he puttered around West Hollywood, LA’s breakfast seekers pricked up their ears. Within just two months, they were spending 45 minutes in line for a taste of his egg wizardry. Even so, it took Alvin Cailan another two years to take the plunge and find a stationary home for his automotive Breakfast Club.

 

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And when he chose Grand Central Market as the location for his first brick-and-mortar Eggslut, Alvin Cailan encountered as much resistance as he had when he first decided to open his business. One food and travel show even went out of its way to declare that eating breakfast at the market was worse than not eating at all. That only egged Cailan on. Now, he’s a chef, an entrepreneur, and the CEO of a casual-dining chain whose fan base extends well beyond Los Angeles. When he took his show on the road, Alvin Cailan remained true to his original pop-up restaurant concept – Eggslut’s New Yolk City offshoot started as a temporary establishment as well. Hungry customers on both coasts line up around the block for the same simple fare of egg salad, fluffy scrambled eggs, coddled eggs… basically anything egg-related. Soon, the mini-chain will begin conquering even more distant shores.

 

Eggslut: International eggspansion

This summer, residents of London’s trendy Notting Hill area will get their first taste of Cailan’s egg-centric delights – Europe’s first Eggsluts will likely be scrambling to Portobello Road for their hangover food fixes. The London menu will feature all the other breakfast bestsellers that have elevated the casual-dining chain to fame on the other side of the pond.

Besides taking a turn in New York, Eggslut is flying high in Glendale, LA, and Vegas, as well as in Crystal Towers Kuwait. Bestsellers at the other locations include the Fairfax sandwich, Alvin Cailan’s hearty take on the American dream: a brioche bun with caramelized onions, gooey cheddar, chives, and sriracha mayo, all serving as the backdrop for a decadent mass of risotto-like scrambled egg. All of Eggslut’s locations are consistent in that regard: the egg is always the star of the show.

 

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“Get out,” we can already hear you saying. “How can you base an entire menu on one ingredient – especially something as ordinary as eggs?” But Cailan’s not the only casual-dining restaurateur with a single-food focus. The Avocado Show is already taking Amsterdam and Brussels by storm, for example. “Sure, okay,” you say, “but avocado’s different… surely people in London aren’t going to lose their minds over scrambled eggs, right? Right?” Ah, but Londoners have their fair share of those “other” Sunday-morning people. A casual dining concept that was literally inspired by hangovers? A place for people who love a good Sunday morning breakfast, confetti in their hair and all? Come on. That’s got “London” written all over it.

 

Cailan’s ultimate hangover sandwich

Not exactly diet food, but it’ll cure what ails you: Start with a Hawaiian sweet roll. Top it with Spam or pork loin chops, dredged in cornstarch and salt and then deep fried. A little sriracha mayo, some julienned green onions, and then the piece de resistance: a marbleized egg.

Make it for your homies. They’ll love you forever
– Alvin Cailan –

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