From the James Beard Award winner, Top Chef Masterscontestant, and acclaimed author comes this fun, festive, and highly caffeinated ode to the joys and rituals of the Southern breakfast, with 75 recipes inspired by the author’s popular restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi.
John Currence is one of the most celebrated and well-loved chefs in the South. Among his string of highly successful restaurants in Oxford, Mississippi, Big Bad Breakfast holds a special place in diners’ hearts: It is a gathering place where people from all walks come together to share the most important meal of the day, breakfast. Southerners know how to do breakfast right, and Currence has elevated it to an artform: dishes like Banana-Pecan Coffee Cake, Spicy Boudin and Poached Eggs, and Oyster Pot Pie are comforting, soulful, and packed with real Southern flavor. Big Bad Breakfast is full of delicious recipes that will make the day ahead that much better–not to mention stories of the wonderful characters who fill the restaurant every morning, and a meditation on why the Southern breakfast is one of America’s most valuable culinary contributions.
JOHN CURRENCE was born and raised in New Orleans, Louisiana, and had his first cooking job while working offshore as a deckhand on a tugboat in the Gulf of Mexico. His love for the kitchen was ignited during his first restaurant job at Bill Neal’s Crook’s Corner while at the University of North Carolina. That job along with several others he curated during those years (baking bread at an Italian restaurant, working at a butcher shop, cutting salmon and bluefish at a local smokehouse, and working a short-order line at a bookstore/cafe) cemented his love for the industry. Currence returned to New Orleans to help his childhood friend Larkin Selman open Gautreau’s, where he worked as sous chef. After several years, Currence moved on to the Brennan family of restaurants to help open Bacco, before finally settling in Oxford in 1992 and opening City Grocery. Since then, the City Grocery Restaurant Group has opened a number of restaurants, including Ajax Diner, Nacho Mama’s, Kalo’s Tavern, Big Bad Breakfast, Bouré, Lamar Lounge, The Main Event, and Snackbar.
Currence is the recipient of the 2009 James Beard Award for Best Chef South and the Southern Foodways Alliance Guardian of the Tradition Award. He has appeared on television programs such as Parts Unknown, Mind of a Chef, Bizarre Foods, Treme, and Top Chef Masters and his writing has appeared in Food & Wine and Bon Appétit, among many others. He is a contributing editor for Garden & Gun magazine, a board member of No Kid Hungry (a project dedicated to eradicating childhood hunger in the United States), and an organizer and past board member of the prestigious annual Southern Foodways Symposium.
During his tenure as president/chairman of the Mississippi Restaurant Association, the Association was one of the first in the country to establish a statewide culinary educational program in Mississippi public schools. He worked for years as organizer of a local farmers’ cooperative and market which established a bi-weekly venue for local farmers to sell their goods in the Oxford community. A deep interest in the arts led to five years as president of the local arts council and a nine year project assembling funds and overseeing the construction of a community performing arts center. The eighteen months following hurricane Katrina found Currence mostly in New Orleans leading the rebuilding of Willie Mae’s Scotch House in the Treme neighborhood of the city, which was the subject of a feature-length documentary called Above the Line: Saving Willie Mae’s Scotch House. An avid hunter and fisherman, Currence lives in Oxford with his wife, Bess, and extremely strong-headed but amazing daughter, Mamie. If you need him, he’s the chubby guy at the end of the bar, sipping whiskey and bitching about the current state of American politics, entitlement, and/or commercial air travel. Just keep your hands and feet away from his mouth and cover your children’s ears . . .
“Big Bad Breakfast is a book you’ll want to read from front to back. John’s humorous stories, from both in and out of the kitchen, plus his approachable Southern-style breakfast recipes, make this a killer cookbook that is not to be missed.”
– Emeril Lagasse
“I am not a breakfast person, yet no food memory will live up to my experience at Big Bad Breakfast. I was in desperate need of comfort (from a hangover and a long flight), sustenance (when you’re in the South, your belly knows it must be fed), and warmth (okay, maybe I’m being dramatic), and Big Bad Breakfast delivered. Was it the sweet, savory, gooey Sausage Cinnamon Rolls or the deeply dirty and delicious waffle-topped Pylon? Or maybe it was the indescribable power of true Southern hospitality. I revel in that meal, and any meal with John at the helm.”
– Christina Tosi, chef-owner of Milk Bar and author of Momofuku Milk Bar
“They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. With Big Bad Breakfast, John gives you 137 reasons why that’s true, and shows you that breakfast is not only the most important, but also the most delicious meal of the day. Get ready for some of the best breakfast foods you’ve ever had.”
– Aarón Sánchez, chef-partner of Johnny Sánchez and costar of Chopped
“Mr. Currence won a James Beard award in 2009 for best Southern chef, and it’s possible to eat brilliantly in Oxford for weeks, without repeating a course, in his restaurants alone. In fact I’d recommend this experience . . . . He’s pushing the notions of what Southern food can be, pulling off impressive feats with a casual air of embarrassment.”
– New York Times
“Venerable food writer John T. Edge once told us we couldn’t leave Oxford without stopping by Big Bad Breakfast—and boy, are we glad we listened to him. Chef John Currence is a great cook with a lot of soul.”
– Serious Eats
“Chef-ruler of Oxford, Mississippi, John Currence is here to make the case for breakfast. With recipes from the restaurant that gives this book its title, Big Bad Breakfast offers a vision of mornings spent with Southern heavyweights like oyster pot pie and banana-pecan coffee cake. If you love Eater’s Breakfast Week, biscuits, the idea of cinnamon rolls baked with sausage filling, and/or restaurant cookbooks that actually seem cookable, this one’s for you.”
– EATER NATIONAL