Chris Purucker had always been told that he should open a restaurant, so when the opportunity came to open The Cracked Egg Diner in Daytona Beach Shores with his brother Kevin, he jumped at it.
Two years later, Purucker is serving up breakfast and lunch specials to locals and tourists alike in the beautifully sunlit diner along South Atlantic Avenue.
Name: Chris Purucker
Restaurant: The Cracked Egg Diner
How long have you been there?
Since we opened two years ago.
How long have you been cooking?
Professionally for two years, however as an amateur I have been cooking seriously for practically all my life. I would have people over for a meal and they would always tell me you need to open your own restaurant. Well finally I did!
When did you first realize you wanted to be a chef?
When I was about 14 I decided to "experiment" in the kitchen. I mixed just about everything I could find in the fridge; meats, veggies, sauce and spices. After tasting, I thought I had made a masterpiece and asked my mom to come over and give it a shot. She had a tiny bite and through gritted teeth told me it was great. Thankfully, that recipe is lost to history but it was the driving force behind my desire to cook.
Where did you learn to cook?
Self-taught and on-the-job training.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
American comfort food and short order.
What is your favorite cooking technique?
What's the best dish you've ever had?
Steamed Maryland blue crabs in my grandparents' backyard. I used to go out on the Chesapeake Bay with my brothers and grandpop in the morning and catch them and bring home a couple of bushels. Then we would steam them up with lots and lots of Old Bay and the whole family would get together and eat them. That is a meal, in my mind, that can't be beat.
What is your signature dish?
How would you describe it?
It is similar to Eggs Benedict except we replace the Canadian bacon with our homemade crab cake. So it is a fresh toasted English muffin, topped with our crab cake and poached eggs then covered in our fresh Hollandaise sauce. The homemade Maryland crab cake is the most important part of the dish. We make it the same way my grandmother has been making it for the last 50 years.
What other dishes would you recommend?
Our homemade corned beef hash is always a hit. Also the Southern Scramble (two split biscuits topped with home fries, scrambled eggs and our homemade sausage gravy), our Cracked Egg Omelet (an everything omelet covered with sausage gravy), homemade Apple Fritters and of course our crab cake sandwich at lunch. I could list our whole menu but I might get carpal tunnel.
Know a local chef you'd like to see profiled? Contact Tom Iacuzio at email@example.com or 386-681-2461.
FROM THE KITCHEN
Shrimp and Feta Over Rice Pilaf
tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3/4 cup chopped green onion
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 cups chopped, peeled tomatoes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds large uncooked shrimp, peeled
4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Saute onion in oil until transparent. Stir in green onion and garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, for two more minutes. Stir in tomatoes, wine, most of the parsley, oregano and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
Spread half the sauce on the bottom of a large oven dish. Arrange shrimp evenly over sauce and pour the remaining sauce on top. Sprinkle with feta cheese. Cook in preheated oven for 10 to 15 minutes until shrimp are pink and the feta is melted and lightly browned. Sprinkle with remaining parsley and serve immediately.
Serve over rice pilaf with a nice leafy salad and some crusty bread.