It turns out that chef Brad Wise and I have a lot in common. We hail from neighboring towns in South Jersey; we consider Italian food our love language; and we were both raised on pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwiches for breakfast. For those who have never had pork roll, you are in for a treat with chef Brad’s Pork Roll with Roasted Potatoes, Fried Eggs, and Grilled Bread. The way the edges of the pork crackle and caramelize in the pan will have you shipping pork roll by the pound to the West Coast. Recently, Wise and I discussed our traditions of cooking breakfast for friends and family during the holiday season.

Wise starts his mornings at sunrise by pouring himself a tall, strong cup of coffee and walking the backyard with his daughter Charlie. When the neighborhood is still and the sky’s just turning an illuminating pink, they plan the day ahead, identify various bugs and animals that cross their path, and brainstorm their favorite meal: breakfast. For Charlie, waffles are preferred. For Wise, it’s usually a second cup of coffee and a light bite, if he’s lucky, before heading off to lead the various culinary concepts of Trust Restaurant Group.

In his childhood, Wise’s Cape May, New Jersey, home was the talk of the town for weekend breakfast. His mom was revered for her elaborate spread of corned beef and hash, fat piles of French toast, and, of course, pork roll, egg, and cheese sandwiches. All of Wise’s friends would fight to stay overnight on Fridays knowing that they would awake to the intoxicating smells of his mom’s famous breakfast spread.

In San Diego, Wise carries on these traditions and invents new ones with his wife and daughters. This time of year, they love to cruise around the neighborhood on their street-legal golf cart while sipping hot cocoa to view the holiday decorations and lights. On weekend mornings, Wise invites friends and family over to serve up fresh takes on his childhood favorites. His newest winter tradition incorporates grilling and roasting fruits and vegetables over charcoal, and pairing them with glazed smoked pork.

In my neck of the woods in New Jersey, I was raised on apple cider doughnuts. These puffy, warm doughnuts are rolled in cinnamon sugar and served with hot coffee or mulled cider. We would buy them by the dozen and my three siblings and I would fight over the crumbs at the bottom of the bag.

The holidays were always a big affair in my family with more aunts, uncles, and cousins than one could count, and the holiday table was as overflowing as the living room in my grandparents’ tiny cottage. Post-holiday breakfasts were sure to include raisin walnut sticky buns, crispy bacon, fried scrapple, and buttermilk pancakes.

At my new home in San Diego, I still cook the classics but add modern flairs to my favorite dishes. Inspired by Charlie’s favorite waffle breakfast, I crafted a Vegan “Chicken” ‘n’ Waffles recipe that even my carnivorous friends enjoy. Fried local golden oyster mushrooms are the perfect substitute for chicken, and nitro cold brew coffee adds a boost of flavor to my oat milk waffle recipe.

As chefs, Wise and I have gleaned some expert tactics on cooking breakfast for a crowd in commercial kitchens that also apply at home. Chef Wise suggests learning how long each recipe takes to make before heading into the kitchen so that each dish comes out in unison, hot and ready. To master this, I suggest assembling your mise en place (measure out all of your ingredients ahead of time to ensure that “everything is in its place”) before beginning to cook.

Wherever and with whomever you spend your holiday mornings with, be sure to make them delicious.

To taste Ryan Rizzuto's work, follow @chefryanrizzuto and @southsidebiscuits on Instagram and head to one of his personal pop-up events, and check out the Kitchens for Good concessions stand during a San Diego Symphony performance at The Rady Shell at Jacobs Park.

To experience the work of Brad Wise (@chefbwise), visit any of the following Trust Restaurant Group locations.

Trust Restaurant

3752 Park Blvd.

San Diego, CA 92103

@trustrestaurantsd

Fort Oak

1011 Fort Stockton Dr.

San Diego, CA 92103

@fortoaksd

Rare Society

4130 Park Blvd.

San Diego, CA 92103

-and-

330 South Cedros Ave.

Solana Beach, CA 92075

@raresocietysteakhouse

Cardellino and Mr. Trustee Creamery

4033 Goldfinch St.

San Diego, CA 92103

@cardellinosd

The Wise Ox

2855 El Cajon Blvd., Suite 1

San Diego, CA 92104

@thewiseox

Bring This Story to Life with These Delicious Recipes

Apple Cider Doughnuts

Make doughnut making easy on yourself and prepare the batter the night before you plan to cook them and refrigerate it overnight for up to 12 hours. Apple Cider Doughnuts are almost symbolic in New Jersey and you'll know why after your first bite. Recipe by Ryan Rizzuto. Make Apple Cider Doughnuts.

Pork Roll with Roasted Potatoes, Eggs, and Grilled Bread

Ever wonder what the perfect home cooked breakfast for feeding a crowd would be according to Brad Wise, chef and owner of Trust Restaurant Group? Turns out, it's grilled pork roll and we have the recipe for you here. Recipe courtesy of Brad Wise. Make Pork Roll with Roasted Potatoes, Eggs, and Grilled Bread.

Vegan "Chicken" n' Waffles

This is sure to be the perfect breakfast plate for plant-based friends—or breakfast for dinner inspiration. A touch of coffee in the waffle batter sets Ryan Rizzuto's recipe apart from other waffles, and let's just say that deep fried oyster mushrooms might become the only way you'll ever want to eat fried "chicken" again. Recipe by Ryan Rizzuto. Make Vegan "Chicken" n' Waffles.

About the Contributor
Ryan Rizzuto
Ryan Rizzuto is a chef, entrepreneur, and event curator in San Diego. You can taste his work at his own soul food popup, Southside Biscuits, or at local nonprofit Kitchens for Good. Chef Ryan was nationally-recognized as a 2020 Food Hero by Edible Communities and Niman Ranch for his Covid-19-related hunger relief operations at Kitchens for Good. Follow him on Instagram at @chefryanrizzuto and his soul food and public events at @southsidebiscuits.
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