When the chefs at Driftaway CafÃ© in Sandfly were asked to join a national breakfast battle and recipe competition featuring chefs from across the country, it seemed a no-brainer to enter one of their brunch favorites, the Crab Cake Benedict.
John Rogers, executive chef at Driftaway CafÃ©, put his signature Savannah recipe on the line against 135 other chefs to win Thomas' Hometown Breakfast Battle. Only two chefs from Georgia are in the contest, and Rogers needs Savannah to vote him through to the next round. The contest has a total of five rounds to decide the winner.
Why 135 chefs and cities? Because it's Thomas' 135th anniversary. The brand is best known for its English muffins and Driftaway CafÃ©'s owner, Robyn Quattlebaum, says the attention from the Thomas company has made them feel like winners already.
"Lord knows I've been enjoying their Nooks and Crannies my whole life," he said.
Rogers, 31, may seem relatively young for an executive chef, but he's been in the kitchen since he graduated high school. While he said he has spent most of his professional career at Driftaway, he left Savannah for a few years and went to Philadelphia where he cooked under several notable chefs in the area before returning back to Driftaway.
Rogers said they sell a lot of crab cakes at Driftaway CafÃ© so he's got his crab cake recipe down to a science.
As for the secret technique for making those perfectly poached eggs, he said you "gotta have your vinegar. It keeps everything together.
"And the technique I was shown, is you take a spatula â€¦ and roll it around the edge of the pan and it creates a whirlpool in the water."
Rogers drops the egg in the whirlpool and he says the motion creates a pocket for the egg.
"You've just got to keep an eye on it and make sure the egg is cooked right."
Rogers is soft spoken and seems very humble for his accomplishments as a chef. When asked if he enjoys the spotlight of the contest, he paused and tried to pick his words carefully.
"Not really. I just like to cook."
But when he talks about cooking, he becomes more animated and can't help but smile.
"I love to cook seafood. Octopus is my favorite. I love cooking lamb. I love cooking basically anything that's local that I can get my hands on."
And the folks at Thomas said the reason for the September contest is to also recognize National Breakfast Month.
When asked what he enjoys making for breakfast at home, Rogers was quick to rattle off his favorites.
"At the house, we do sweet potato hash with everything. We cook sweet potatoes almost every night. It's so good for you. â€¦ And you can just throw leftovers in the pan with some onions and bacon or whatever you got, call it a day and put an egg on top."
Even though Rogers feels bigger cities and restaurants in the competition may have an edge in getting votes, he has confidence his boss can get Driftaway CafÃ© as many votes as possible.
"Robyn has a great fan base following him and people are really loyal to him and will follow him through anything, so hopefully he can pull their support as well."
To vote for Chef John Rogers and his recipe for his Crab Cake Benedict, go to ThomasBreakfastBattle.com. The first round of voting ends Sept. 27 and you can vote daily. Voting also enters you into daily contests for coupons and other offers from Thomas.
Driftaway CafÃ© is located at 7400 Skidaway Road and the hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. Brunch is served Saturday and Sunday and the Crab Cake Benedict is on the menu. Go to driftawaycafe.com for more information on the restaurant and menu.
Chef Rogers' Crab Cake Benedict
2 lb. crab meat
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 white onion
2 brioche buns, diced small
1 teaspoon Sriracha
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
Â¼ teaspoon fish sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
SautÃ© vegetables, then cool. Mix all ingredients except the crab together thoroughly. Add crab meat gently folding it in not to break apart too much. Patty to desired size and cook on both sides until golden brown.
1 Thomas' Original English Muffin
4 oz. Hollandaise sauce
2 poached eggs
Split and toast the Thomas' English Muffin. Place crab cake on top of English muffin, then layer with egg and finish with Hollandaise drizzle.