When you imagine brunch at an Iron Chef’s house, you might picture a lavish affair complete with an overflowing spread of all manner of croissants, made-to-order omelets, thick-cut French toast and the bubbliest Bellinis. But according to Geoffrey Zakarian, “less is more” when it comes to this midmorning meal, and it can be surprisingly easy to execute. As he explained, “Everything at brunch is done the day before.” FN Dish recently caught up with Geoffrey in Miami as he hosted his own brunch event, and we chatted with him about what it takes to pull off the ultimate crowd-pleasing meal. Read on below to learn his top tips for entertaining and thoughts on classic brunch picks like eggs, waffles and mimosas.
What’s a go-to rule of thumb to remember when preparing brunch?
Geoffrey Zakarian: I always say less is more. What people do with brunch is they overwhelm you with too much stuff that’s, like, throwaway. They pile breads and pastries and all this stuff, and no one eats it anyways. You end up throwing it away. So I say just be very focused and really edit what you’re going to do. Do seven, eight things maximum. Make people just eat those things, and make them really delicious and different, and it’ll be a very successful brunch.
What kind of shortcuts can people take when preparing brunch, especially in regard to eggs, which are difficult to time for a crowd?
GZ: Everything at brunch is done the day before — just about. And I would de-emphasize eggs. … It’s nice to have some eggs, but have some different eggs. Some deviled eggs, some hard-boiled eggs and maybe one other egg, because it’s not just about eggs. It’s about, like, a protein with salad. It’s about legumes. … Cold salads are great stuff, but most brunch food should be done ahead of time at night.
How can people pull off a successful brunch at home?
GZ: One of the secrets is making a limited menu [and] doing stuff you know how to do — no surprises at brunch for you. You can surprise your husband; once you perfect it, then give it to the guests, but don’t surprise people. Don’t do anything out of your wheelhouse that you haven’t done before; you need to have tested it and made sure it works. Do everything ahead of time, as much as possible.
Do you most often prepare sweet dishes, like waffles or pancakes, or do you prefer savory items?
GZ: The minute you go into waffle-pancake territory, you need warmth. You want to put a spread together that doesn’t have to rely on warmth. You need to take that away. So, yes, I’ll do frittata and quiche and things like that that don’t have to rely on warmth. It’s warm out of the oven, but it sits at room temperature and gets better.
What’s your brunch drink of choice: Bloody Mary, mimosa or Bellini?
GZ: I tend not to do those things. I tend to like a selection of Champagne, rose Champagne and rose wine. I don’t like to drink concoctions at breakfast. I think there are a lot of concoctions in the brunch as it is. I like something very simple for a drink, so I think maybe a Bellini, but I’d prefer a really good Champagne, rose Champagne, really cold. … I would stay away from all these mixology things at brunch ’cause it just confuses what brunch is, which is about the food with a little alcohol. It’s not about alcohol with a ton of food.