By George Kandel
There aren’t too many things I can cook—or cook well because I can certainly burn a whole lot—but the perfect pancake happens to be one of them. I started making pancakes years ago, on a whim, thinking they had to be easy enough and now I’m known as the unofficial Pancake King in my circle of friends. The original recipe I use was adapted from a ricotta pancake recipe my daughter found online and with a few secret alterations, I turned it into a legendary concoction. (If you’re wondering, I won’t be publishing the recipe here but I will tell you it calls for buttermilk instead of milk and a separation of the eggs into yolks and whites. You also have to beat the egg whites to stiff peaks before folding them into the batter. OK that’s it, I’ve said too much already … no more!)
Anyway, the story begins with me singing my own praises a few nights ago to Chef Julio Hawkins of Fly ‘N’ Fish Oyster Bar and Grill. We were standing outside on the sidewalk, talking about the sun, moon, stars and Fly ‘N’ Fish menu when I told him I can also cook.
“Nobody makes better pancakes,” I said to Chef Julio, realizing it was quite a statement to make to an award-winning, culinary professional.
“Really?” He asked.
“Really.” I reiterated, so sure it was true.
Chef Julio crossed his arms, smiling in that friendly but competitive way he does. “Are you positive, George?”
I nodded, knowing he was egging me on like an uncooked batter of my famed meal. I didn’t care. My pancakes could take the heat.
“OK, then come down to the restaurant on Sunday with your batter and I’ll make pancakes on the stovetop,” Chef Julio said. “I’ll taste them and let you know what I really think.”
And with those words, the first-ever Unofficial Great Pancake Cook-off in Newport Beach was on.
I returned several days later, on a Sunday morning, eager to prove my pancakes were up to fluff. Chef Julio took the bowl, ladled three scoops onto the stovetop and with the sweet sizzle of batter cooking, we were off to the (pancake) races.
Within minutes, he had made three cakes prime for eating, each sporting golden-crisp edges that crumbled easily beneath the light touch of a fork.
On went the syrup, on went my daughter’s homemade strawberry-basil compote (also delicious) and after careful chewing, Chef Julio had made up his mind. Yes, he agreed, the pancakes received his coveted two thumbs up and so it was that my legend as pancake-making master would live another day … or at the very least, another breakfast.