Traditional English cuisine has come in for some abuse over the years, but not so the classic English breakfast. Otherwise known as a full English or a fry-up, the breakfast not only deserves to be ranked among the world's most delicious and satisfying; it's also a first-rate hangover cure. Rebecca LaMalfa, a Top Chef Season 12 contestant and former executive sous chef at Chicago's Trenchermen, reveres the fry-up so much, she's putting it on her all-day (and night) breakfast menu at Miss Ricky's, part of her new gig revamping the food at Virgin Hotels Chicago's four eating and drinking spots.
Although Miss Ricky's is an American-style diner, Rebecca believes the fry-up makes sense on the menu, given the hotel's British origins and international clientele.
"To my friends who live over there, when they're hungover or have had a rough day, that's the comfort food that they turn to to make them feel better. It's like their version of our greasy cheeseburgers and fries, which don't make us feel very good," she explains. "Our version [of the fry-up] is awesome and tastes really good!"
Rebecca's fry-up features sausages (English-style bangers and blood sausage) made locally by a British expat with a company called Spencer's Jolly Posh Foods, and they're served alongside two fried eggs, baked beans and toast. It's a perfect high-low combo: Rebecca's husband, who used to cook in Ireland, made her get the proper beans, which actually come in a can and are made by Heinz. "Like the ketchup?" she asked, with a laugh.
Miss Ricky's menu also offers American comfort classics like a double cheeseburger and spaghetti and meatballs, plus daily specials including an outrageous lobster pot pie that she learned how to make at Michael Mina restaurant in San Francisco. She's renaming it "Sinful Saturday." Rebecca (pictured below) is also overseeing the small-bites menus at the hotel's social club, rooftop bar and Euro-style coffee bar. It may sound like a lot of responsiblity, but her work at Trenchermen and her time on Top Chef have taught her how to take on a huge workload with grace.
"I learned so much from my castmates," she says of her time on Top Chef. "I took away techniques from everybody. Basically I learned, you'll survive anything — whatever happens, you will live and you will be fine. What's the worst that can happen? You're not gonna die."
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