John Currence kicks off his day in a big, bad way
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Everybody gets a little weird at breakfast. For most of us, it’s a fairly private meal, calibrated toward comfort and nourishment, but the way that plays out can vary from complete rigidity (must have two eggs with perfectly set yolks, OJ in your special jelly jar glass that you’ve had since childhood, or an exceptionally complicated coffee involving directives on temperatures and height of foam), to weird, feral behavior involving cold leftovers and no utensils. In our new Habits series, we’re asking chefs and civilians about their strange or surprising morning rituals, and who better to kick that off with than Extra Crispy’s inaugural Breakfast Chef of the Year, John Currence?

We chatted with the James Beard Award-winning chef of Big Bad Breakfast and the City Grocery Restaurant Group about how he kicks off his day.

Extra Crispy: What’s your breakfast habit that people might be surprised to find out?
John Currence: Here's my dirty little secret. I am completely about recycling and using sustainable products and so on, with the exception of styrofoam cups. I love a styrofoam cup for chicken noodle soup, or bourbon on the rocks, or a Coca-Cola with crushed ice. So when I go blowing through Big Bad Breakfast in the morning and I'm trying to find Vish [Bhatt—corporate chef of Currence’s City Grocery Restaurant Group] and talk about something, have a meeting or whatever, I'll grab a styrofoam cup, crumble a biscuit in the bottom of it, throw some grits on top of the biscuit, tomato gravy, crumble some sausage or bacon, and then just stir it all up. It's like a breakfast sundae. I put a poached egg and some fresh herbs on top of it and this is my breakfast bowl, basically, in a styrofoam cup.

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How about if you’ve been drinking?
Drinking again. I have a terrible reputation that you are fully aware of and I am also so neurotic that I have to be the performing monkey that everybody wants me to be. I moderate pretty well and drink a lot of water. Hangovers for me are nothing but anxiety now. I don't get headaches, I just get anxious.

I love nothing more than the opportunity to day drink, so when I have a hangover, there's nothing better than what I refer to as the shampoo effect. The first time you wash your hair when it's dirty you can put half of the bottle in your hand and it does nothing, and you rinse it out. And then you put the tiniest drop of shampoo in your hand the second time and you've got a magnificent foam afro going. Alcohol is sort of the same way. On a hangover if you have the opportunity to dismiss responsibility and get a bloody mary, by the third sip, you're back to almost where you were the night before. It's like the cheapest buzz in the world. I love a bloody mary.

Photo reprinted with permission from Big Bad Breakfast by John Currence, copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.