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Because it’s strange and beautiful and hot, people from everywhere converge on Florida and they bring their cuisine and their traditions with them. The Zest celebrates the intersection of food and communities in the Sunshine State.

Brunch advice from First Watch

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First Watch leaves dinner to the other guys as it continues perfecting brunch.

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If breakfast is the most important meal of the day, then that makes First Watch one of the most important restaurant chains in Florida. The Bradenton-based company has more than 430 restaurants in 28 states, and they’re all open for breakfast and lunch only.

“It feels like there are so many possibilities between 7 and 2:30. We’ve been working to perfect brunch for almost 40 years,” says Eleni Kouvatsos, director of communications for First Watch Restaurant Group.

For First Watch, opening and closing early is strategic. Ken Pendery founded the company in Pacific Grove, Calif, in 1983. Three years later, he moved its headquarters to Bradenton, where he wanted to spend his afternoons raising his family and playing golf. The early working hours have allowed First Watch to attract employees seeking work-life balance, Eleni says.

So the chain will leave dinner to the other guys as it continues perfecting brunch. There’s a core menu of pancakes, waffles, omelettes, sandwiches and salads. But the seasonal menu, which changes about every 10 weeks, keeps customers returning to see what’s new.

“There’s always something new to try,” Eleni says. “We have a seasonal menu program that blows the roof off any other brunch spot, in my humble opinion.”

She notes that customers are becoming more adventurous, even willing to try items like the kale tonic.

“I have one at least once a week,” Eleni says. “It doesn’t taste like grass!”

To elevate an at-home brunch experience, Eleni offers these tips:

  • Keep it simple. Use high-quality ingredients, and let them shine.
  • Learn the proper way to cook eggs. The First Watch Cookbook includes a section on egg-cooking basics. There are also plenty of tutorials on YouTube.
  • Whenever possible, incorporate seasonal produce. For instance, top French toast with sliced strawberries. The berries add freshness and a pop of color that makes the dish more appealing.

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