Many years ago at a folk festival I was inspired by the message on a T-shirt worn by an old hippie that read — “Beer — so much more than just a breakfast drink.”
Some variation of that might be adapted by Canadian egg producers… maybe “Eggs — so much more than just a sandwich filler.” Don’t get me wrong, I love egg salad sandwiches, but for a cook whose egg recipe repertoire doesn’t vary much beyond scrambled or fried, I have occasionally wondered what can you do (beyond ketchup) to make eggs exciting?
The answer to that recently landed in my hungry little hands standing in the yard of a southern Alberta Hutterite colony, next to a bright white and yellow food truck dishing out new, interesting and very tasty egg-based cuisine.
I was attending the launch of Alberta’s first egg-focused food truck (there’s a good chance more will follow) owned by young Calgary chef Jordon Henkel. The truck is called Crack’d YYC. Henkel studied culinary arts at the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology, was part of the chef team at a very popular Calgary restaurant for a number of years, but apparently has long had a dream of owning his own food truck. While his dream was brooding, Alberta Egg Producers approached the food industry looking for a partner to help raise the profile of eggs from just a healthy, nutritious breakfast staple to a new level.
They received a proposal from Henkel, they liked his commitment to locally grown, high quality food, his enthusiasm and creativity in the kitchen and from that the idea for the Crack’d YYC truck was hatched.
So the egg barn at the Brant Hutterite Colony about an hour south of Calgary was the backdrop for the launch of Crack’d YYC. Several of the colony members told me they sure enjoy their eggs — and so they should as they produce about four million of them a year in one of the most modern, animal-welfare conscious, energy efficient barns in the province. But were they ready for Henkel’s menu?
I can’t describe it with full justice, but the first dish out of Crack’d YYC (Henkel was assisted by his wife and hard working sous chef Graham Schnieder) was an egg and Waygu beef taco. That was followed by braised short-rib poutine, topped with a poached egg (they had me at poutine), and that was followed by a scotch egg made with homemade chorizo sausage. Apparently there was also an egg-inspired banana bread for desert.
How did it go over? Well the line up of young and old farmers and guests for each course was long, I saw only empty paper plates in the trash can, and I never heard any complaints.
Apparently other egg-based menu items Crack’d YYC will be serving on the breakfast side will include a soft boiled, egg-stuffed, savoury muffin with cheese, herbs and chorizo sausage, as well as a breaded, deep-fried, soft-boiled egg cut open and topped with tomato and red pepper relish with avocado aloli. And for lunch, for example, he’s putting a restaurant-quality spin on a Monte Cristo sandwich enhanced with smoked ham and garnished with a whiskey-infused pickle slice. Henkel is obviously putting some creativity into how to serve an egg.
Food trucks have become big business, certainly in urban centres such as Calgary. There are dozens of these mobile restaurants that flock to special events. During the week to catch the lunch crowd many are parked along the main downtown streets or spotted in various parking lots. When I was a kid the only “food truck” I ever saw was Liscumb’s chip wagon, parked on the main street of Chesterville on Friday nights (stores were open late), just during the summer. They only served French fries, but they were great.
It is good to see Henkel realizing his dream and in the process raising awareness and profile of a high quality, locally grown product. Hopefully he does well.
And if you are ever interested in seeing what a flock of 13,000 laying hens looks like in a free-run housing set up, get in touch with Darrel Mandel, egg barn manager, visitors are welcome at the Brandt Colony. They have glassed viewing windows set up so you can watch these large flocks of birds (broilers in one barn, layers in another) walk around, fly, roost, eat and socialize. And in one of the grand mysteries of life, when the conveyor belts are turned on in the layer barn, thousands of brown eggs come rolling out of the nest box area, for sorting and packing. Now I know where eggs come from — conveyor belts.