Chef Timothy Hollingsworth shows us how it's done
French toast
Credit: photo by Rebecca Firkser

Chef Timothy Hollingsworth doesn’t do boring French toast. At Otium, his Los Angeles restaurant, he serves the brunch classic from a smoke-filled donabe (a multifunctional ceramic Japanese pot). With blots of whipped cream and berry compote, pieces of crispy bacon, and a shower of fresh mint, this French toast is a showstopper. Seriously, one look at the finished dish and you might not be able to enjoy diner French toast the same way ever again. Stunning as the final product is, the original inspiration for this dish came from a simpler place.

“As a kid I remember really liking the French toast from Jack in the Box, the deep-fried one” Hollingsworth said. “It’s been on the menu since day 1.”

As you can probably imagine, Hollingsworth’s French toast isn’t just egg-dipped bread. He starts with a pain perdu—brioche that has been soaked in a creamy maple-vanilla custard, wrapped in plastic, and steamed until soft. He’ll slice the bread into strips, then deep fries the bread until golden brown. Hollingsworth arranges the French toast and it its accoutrements on a grate inside the donabe. Then comes the fun part: he smokes the whole thing over hot coals (here he used a smoking gun—but that didn’t make it any less exciting).