The celebrated chef and jam-maker thinks breakfast is more important than ever
In 2011 I started a jam company in a tiny corner space on the edge of Los Angeles’s Silver Lake neighbourhood. I called it Sqirl because it was just me and one employee, squirrelling away, usually to the sound of Sonic Youth’s Jams Run Free (on LOUD). As jam-making goes, it was pretty rock ’n’ roll.
The following year I expanded Sqirl into a café. We open at 6.30am and close at 4pm every day, meaning we put the same care and attention into breakfast and lunch that most direct towards dinner.
There’s something about breakfast. It represents a quiet moment – a second for yourself – before the day goes in whatever direction it chooses. We’re championing it, and so we have to give you a meal that can really make your morning: bleinheim apricot jam spread over a slab of brioche toast; daily quiches and sorrel pesto rice bowls with egg; baked goods including pillow-soft Valrhona fleur de sel cookies and malva pudding cakes with oozy insides and crystallised crusts. Craveable food that’s also wholesome.
“Breakfast is a quiet moment before the day goes in whatever direction it chooses”
In LA, the person on the go is the future. That’s the cool thing about this city – you’re so close to the heartbeat of furious change, and you have to align your beliefs quickly with what the customer wants. It’s about how we feed the artists and the creatives and the intellectuals; the writers and actors and other people who don’t work in an office, who want good food during the day, not just in the evening.
The breakfast meeting is becoming the new norm, and the dinner industry is feeling the shift. Chefs used to think: hell no, I’m not touching breakfast witha ten-foot pole. There’s no alcohol, the margins are slim. And yet, all of a sudden, all these chefs are experiencing the same, sudden realisation. “I heard people like breakfast now,” they tell me.
California cooking is all about championing the ingredient – just letting it be. A peach is a peach, and it’s put on a pedestal to be honoured. For me, however, an ingredient doesn’t just have to exist in its purest raw form. It can be dehydrated. It can be fermented. It can be preserved. And there’s something so beautiful about extracting flavour through technique. What we serve simply has to be delicious and hit the spot.
We still make all our jams at Sqirl, meaning it can be a round-the-clock operation. We’re prepping until two in the morning, then our pastry chef arrives at four. Or, during busy times, we’ll work through the night. It’s wild, it’s raw and it’s still rock ’n’ roll.
Jessica’s cookbook, Everything I Want To Eat: Sqirl And The New California Cooking, is out now, published by Harry N Abrams. $40 @JessicaKoslow