Special Sauce: Eggslut’s Alvin Cailan on Ruckus-Causing as a Career Path

Special Sauce: Eggslut’s Alvin Cailan on Ruckus-Causing as a Career Path


Sunny-side up fried eggs on a breakfast plate.

[Alvin Cailan photograph: Courtesy of Alvin Cailan. Eggs photograph: Vicky Wasik]

Every now and then on Special Sauce, I just hit it off with a guest, feeling immediately as if I’ve known them all my life. That’s what happened when I talked with Eggslut founder, chef-restaurateur, and ruckus-causer Alvin Cailan.

Cailan, who grew up in an LA suburb, got his first kitchen job while still in his teen years, washing dishes at a retreat house run by the Catholic Church. His very religious mother thought it would keep her wayward son out of trouble, and it worked—sort of. “[I was] in my car on my breaks…getting stoned, and the next thing you know, a nun would knock on your window and was like, ‘Hey!’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, my God’…. And so I slowly started to change, because their way of fixing that was giving me more responsibility…. At first, I was hired as a dishwasher, and the next thing you know, I’m the janitor. Next thing you know, I’m the prep cook, and the next thing you know, I’m on the line cooking food.”

After college, Cailan went into construction management, but his heart remained in cooking, big time. “It was very tough, because every day I would look up recipes, and then every Friday, when I’d get my check…I would go to the gourmet grocery store, I would go to Costco. I would break down whole tenderloins, and I would buy pork butts, and I would smoke them all weekend, and that was the thing I wanted to do. I was like, this is what I’m supposed to do. And one day, after wrapping up an invoice for $40,000 for a reconstruction of a bathroom, I think that was probably the line in the sand. I was like, I’ve got to do something different.”

Cailan moved to Portland, Oregon, where he worked in fine-dining kitchens and learned how to make charcuterie at Olympia Provisions. But, impatient to start his own project, he saved up some money and started Eggslut in 2010, serving a variety of gourmet egg sandwiches from a food truck. “I was approaching 30 years old, and I was like, man, I really need to step up my culinary game…. I wasn’t really getting the opportunity to get the big-salary positions in these [fine-dining] restaurants, and so I was like, you know what? I’m going to take it up into my own hands.”

When Cailan first started Eggslut, he had enough money to keep it going for just six months—which meant he had six months to “cause some type of ruckus,” as he puts it, and get his business noticed. “[My generation] is like the gangster rap/punk rock era of chefs, where, in 2010, 2011, there were so many celebrity chefs. I mean, there was—like, every single person was getting a show on the Food Network. They were either going on Cutthroat Kitchen, or they’re going on Chopped, or Top Chef, and they were becoming these mega-superstars, but then these dudes that are, like, line cooks that are hard-working, who’ve been doing it for years, were not getting any visibility whatsoever.”

Cailan then moved back to Los Angeles and started another Eggslut food truck. There, a food critic forever altered the course of his career after trying his signature dish—the “Slut,” a coddled egg set on what Cailan calls “[Joël] Robuchon buttery potatoes.” Which food critic was it? All I’ll say is that it’s not who you’d think. Just listen to this week’s episode of Special Sauce to find out.

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Transcript

Ed Levine: Welcome to Special Sauce, a Serious Eats podcast about food and life. Every week on Special Sauce, we talk to some of the leading lights of American culture, food folks and non-food folks alike.

Alvin Cailan: There’s something about construction people and the often times they go to the hardware store, they have to buy a grill every year.

EL: There’s such a thing?

AC: It’s a thing. They’re at the hardware store all the time, so they see these beautiful, massive barbecue grills and my dad tends to buy one every single year, a bigger and better one and in order to justify it, in order for my mom not to get upset, we had to use it.

EL: This week in-house, we have Alvin Cailan. Alvin is the genius creator and I mean that-

AC: Thanks for having me.

EL: … of the great breakfast sandwich concept Eggslut, which you can find in Los Angeles, Las Vegas.

AC: Yeah, we’re everywhere now. We’re in Beirut.

EL: You’re really going nationwide, dude.

AC: Yeah, we’re going international.

EL: You go worldwide.

AC: Yeah, yeah.

EL: That’s awesome. We’re going to talk about that.

AC: Yeah, it’s getting crazy.

EL: But, alas, not in NYC, so we need to talk about that, too.

AC: Right.

EL: He’s also the gregarious host of the Burger Show on First We Feast, where he has welcomed everyone from Seth Rogen to Serious Eats own Kenji Lopez-Alt.

AC: Oh, my God, one of my favorite episodes.

EL: And he is preparing to open many other concepts, right? Are you still doing Paper Plane and Amboy or is that-

AC: Paper Plane is more of a music festival concept. It’s something that I like to bring to music festivals and so it’s like a fun, healthy, yet devouring munchies type of concept.

EL: I love it. And Amboy, you had in L.A. and it closed, right?

AC: Yeah, we were just a pop-up. I had a food incubator in Chinatown and it was a lunchtime pop-up that we did, where we did classic Filipino grilled dishes wrapped in butcher paper and banana leaves.

EL: That’s so cool.

AC: Yeah, it is a pretty cool-

EL: You have a lot of cool shit, man.

AC: That’s why I do food. I don’t like the standardized rules of food. I don’t think that there’s such-

EL: No, you seem to have broken every one of them.

AC: Yeah, I try to do as much creative things as possible with food and really, at that point, it doesn’t become a job, it’s just more of like, “All right, what are we doing next?”

EL: I feel like with you, every concept is more like just a different canvas that you’re painting on.

AC: Yeah, I think it’s really become like what’s developed in my life at that particular moment. Like, Eggslut was something that I thought … Okay, I came from a fine dining background, but I didn’t want to open a full service restaurant because there’s a lot of pressure in doing that and people need to trust you in order for you to serve them a full dinner, so I was like, you know what? I’ll hang out, I’ll try to do breakfast because if there’s something I can do, it’s breakfast and I did Eggslut. I missed the breakfast sandwiches that I used to eat every day when I was training in Portland.

EL: And this was kind of before egg sandwiches became a thing.

AC: Yeah, well, that’s the thing. It’s like, living in Portland within the years of 2006 to 2010, the breakfast culture there is huge. I mean, everyone’s up early.

EL: Oh, right, the biscuits from Pine-

AC: Pine State Biscuits, you know, Stumptown Coffee, Barista, all these third-wave coffee shops are starting to pop up and breakfast was a thing. And then I moved back to Los Angeles in 2010 and I craved it and the only thing Los Angeles had for breakfast was Starbucks sandwiches and then Starbucks coffee. Or, not take away from the diners, but that’s like a 45, one hour commitment.

EL: Yeah, it’s true.

AC: Los Angeles didn’t have something that you can just eat a sandwich, get a cup of coffee and then get on with your day.

EL: It’s true. There are plenty of great breakfasts to be had. I spent 1969, my senior year of high school in Los Angeles and man, those pancakes at Du-Par’s?

AC: Oh, man.

EL: With the warm butter?

AC: Still classic for me.

EL: Oh, my God, man. Those were some serious pancakes.

AC: Yeah, me and my girlfriend, whenever we get a chance, whenever we’re back in L.A., we go to Du-Par’s for sure and we get some pancakes, because you can even get them at 2:00 in the morning if you want to.

EL: Yeah, it’s awesome.

AC: Yeah, it’s great.

EL: So, you’re right though, when you opened it, it wasn’t like there was no place … There was no grab-and-go, and also, unlike New York, there was no deli culture with the griddle where you could get a coffee and-

AC: No bodega culture whatsoever.

EL: No bacon, egg and cheese in two minutes.

AC: We have a 7-11 with some type of crappy egg taquito.

EL: Oh, that’s painful. I don’t even want you to talk about that.

AC: But that’s what we had in 2010 and so I was like, you know what? I really miss this. Rent is expensive. I was living in Portland for a while. Rent was super-cheap. Gas, rent, all this stuff started to accumulate and then I was approaching 30 years old and I was like, man, I really need to step up my culinary game and see … I wasn’t really getting the opportunity to get the big salary positions in these restaurants and so I was like, you know what? I’m going to take it up into my own hands and take the money that I’ve saved up for the few years that I tried to save and I started a pop-up food truck. I had enough money for six months, that’s it. I was like, I’m going to-

EL: That was your business plan? I have enough money for six months.

AC: Well, the whole idea was, let’s try to cause some type of ruckus in six months.

EL: You’re really into causing ruckuses, man. Could I say that?

AC: Yeah, that’s what we do, it’s because you know we-

EL: That’s like your business card, ruckus causer.

AC: We have to, because if not, no one will notice that we’re there. If we don’t make any noise … I look at it like my generation of chefs are unlike the … We’re like the gangster rap/punk rock era of chefs, where in 2010, 2011, there were so many celebrity chefs. I mean, there was like every single person was getting a show on the Food Network. They were either going on Cutthroat Kitchen or they’re going on Chopped or Top Chef and they were becoming these mega-superstars, but then these dudes that are like line cooks that are hard-working, who’ve been doing it for years, were not getting any visibility whatsoever.

EL: Right, they were toiling anonymously.

AC: Right.

EL: So, the ways chefs used to in the ’50s and ’60s.

AC: Yeah, they were being chefs and so we were like, you know what? How am I going to get that investor? Because the investors aren’t going to look at me. They’re going to look at the other guys, and so I did Eggslut. The name, itself, was like … I was like, we had to do Eggslut. This is the only city that we could do a concept with this name. And we did it for six months. I was really scared.

EL: But it ended up being like two-hour lines. That’s no longer a fast sandwich.

AC: Yeah, Ruth Reichl came out of nowhere. We didn’t ask anyone to tell her to come. She was on a walk. I remember the day vividly. It was one of those beautiful L.A. mornings, the sun was shining, and here she comes. She walks up and I looked at her through the window. I was the cashier at the moment and my knees buckle. I’m like, I know you.

EL: But that was good because she couldn’t see that.

AC: Yeah, she couldn’t see it and I told her I was a big fan of hers for so long and I even quoted some of the stuff she said and then I told her, “Hang tight. We do a coddled egg and I want you to try it,” and it took maybe 20 minutes to make. She was-

EL: So much for the fast casual concept.

AC: Well, because she didn’t order a sandwich, so I was like, I want to wow her with this coddled egg that we have, which is our signature dish, it’s called the Slut, and it’s on top of Robuchon buttery potatoes and it’s like the perfect thing to eat with a really strong espresso drink.

EL: I’ve had one.

AC: Okay, yeah.

EL: It is kind of life-changing.

AC: Yeah, they’re pretty good. And so she had it and then later on the afternoon, she tweets about it and then the next thing you know, the next day, every single local foodie was in line and then that was it. That’s the history of the truck.

EL: That’s awesome.

AC: Yeah, within two years, we were able to get a brick-and-mortar and then once we got in our brick-and-mortar, it was like-

EL: Was that at the Grand Central Market?

AC: Grand Central Market, yeah.

EL: That’s where I had it.

AC: Yeah, Grand Central Market.

EL: Yeah, I was late to the party.

AC: Yeah, we were three years in at that point. And so, yeah, at that point I was like, okay we did something successful and I was never really … I didn’t sign up to being a chef just to flip eggs all day long. I wanted to be creative and you know how chefs are, they’re very-

EL: They’re restless.

AC: Yeah, they’re restless. So I started staging at a Ramen restaurant in Little Tokyo, Men Oh Tokushima Ramen and I just started to learn how to make ramen and that was the next thing I was infatuated with, so we did a ramen place and then I started realizing this Filipino food thing was starting to grow and a lot of these Filipino chefs didn’t have the place to cook. They were doing makeshift pop-ups in backyards and stuff like that and I was like, why don’t I invest some of my money into opening an incubator and so we incubated a ton of Filipino concepts from dessert to avant garde and then it turned into an incubator for everybody else. So, again, I do things just based on-

EL: You’re like the accidental entrepreneur.

AC: Yeah, honestly, it’s just based off of being that imaginative child your whole life and then now you’re doing it as a profession and, thankfully, Eggslut has allowed me to be able to do a lot of crazy things because of its success.

EL: That’s great. You know what you and I have in common? Ruth Reichl helped make my career when she called me the Missionary of the Delicious.

AC: Oh, wow. That’s a big title.

EL: It’s a big title, man.

AC: Yeah, that’s a huge title.

EL: It’s like, maybe as good as Eggslut. It’s not quite as good as Eggslut, but it’s pretty good.

AC: Yeah, I feel like Eggslut almost changed that word, you know?

EL: No, it’s great. But anyway, she wrote a chapter about me in Diamonds and Sapphires, one of her memoirs and, by the way, my book which just came out was reviewed together with her book in the Washington Post this week.

AC: Amazing.

EL: So, there’s all these Ruth Reichl connections that you and I have.

AC: Right, yeah. She’s cool and now I see at shows all the time and I just give her the biggest hug and I’m like, “Man, you really did make my career.”

EL: Yeah. So, before we go any further because I have so many other questions, although you’ve already answered so many of them in the first few minutes of this podcast, man. So can you just pipe down? No, tell me the difference … Define a coddled egg, as opposed to a poached egg or a baked egg or?

AC: Well, a coddled egg is what it sounds like. So, coddling an egg is basically-

EL: You’re babying it.

AC: Yeah, you’re putting it in a vessel that’s hugging the egg and completely hugging it, even with the lid. And then you’re submerging that into a hot liquid and that slowly or gently cooks the egg from the vessel, inward.

EL: Interesting.

AC: So it’s literally the word “coddled.” It’s like a coddled egg and the difference between a basted egg is like you throw an egg into an oven in a ramekin and that thing just starts to baste in the oil that it’s made in and then that has a completely different texture. That one gets a little rubbery on the outside. And then a poached egg is just direct into the water.

EL: Into the water, right.

AC: All of which are … I just love eggs. All of which are my favorite, but the coddled egg, I think, was the one thing in America we didn’t really … It wasn’t like a household thing. And in Europe-

EL: It’s a big thing.

AC: It’s a huge thing. In homage to the third way of coffee boom, back in England they would put the egg in their milk steamer carafes and they would just slightly steam the egg in the carafe and that’s what you would eat with your scone or whatever, is these lightly cooked eggs from the steam wand on an espresso machine.

EL: There was a guy who owned a French bakery concept in New York called Chez Laurence that used to steam his scrambled eggs in his espresso machine and Kenji just-

AC: Yeah, that’s a thing, yeah.

EL: That’s a thing now and he Instagrammed a photo … He’s been in Columbia for the last few months with his wife and he’s like, “Oh, I went to this place in Columbia and this is how they made the eggs.”

AC: Amazing. Yeah, I’ve been following him and I’m like, “He’s been on a really long vacation.” That’s awesome.

EL: Yeah, they love to travel, he and his wife love, love, love to travel. They’re very spontaneous travelers. Like me, I’m like, “Where am I going to stay tonight?” They’re like, “We’re cool. We’ll find a place to stay.” All right, so now I want to go hurtling back in time because you have a very interesting pre-Eggslut life.

AC: Oh, yeah.

EL: So, first of all, tell us about life at your family table?

AC: Oh, my gosh. My dad was the cook. My mom would … She would just literally mess up boiling water.

EL: She could not boil water?

AC: This is one story where my mom threw on a pot of water to make hard-boiled eggs, forgot about it, and left the house and all the fire alarms went off and we came back-

EL: But the house didn’t burn down?

AC: The house didn’t burn down. They have one of those security systems that was really, really responsive.

EL: So were you in a suburb of Los Angeles?

AC: I grew up in Pico Rivera, which is about 18 miles from downtown L.A. It’s on the east side. Predominantly a Latino neighborhood. I grew up there until I was about 17.

EL: Were you eating El Tepeyac burritos?

AC: Oh, my whole life. The Manuel’s Special.

EL: Okay, for that alone, you get some serious props from me.

AC: Yeah, El Tepeyac was the place we would go to on a Friday night after a football game or something like that. It’s a very special place for us.

EL: It’s a special place for everybody, man.

AC: Yeah.

EL: We should say that El Tepeyac has the finest burritos in the world.

AC: Oh, it’s up there for me.

EL: Of that style.

AC: It’s like for me, it’s a nostalgia thing. It’s like In ‘N Out, I don’t even consider In ‘N Out a burger place. I consider it a place to-

EL: It’s culturalism to you.

AC: Yeah, it’s a special place for me.

EL: Yeah, yeah. So your dad was a cook. So he was doing the cooking?

AC: Yes, he cooked a lot. He taught me how to make rice at such a young age and that was my responsibility as a family member was to make the rice every day. After school, I would come home and I would wash the rice and I would make the rice so that by the time it was like six o’clock, it’d be in the steamer and it was fluffy and beautiful and he didn’t have to worry about making it.

EL: So you’re like a rice master, then?

AC: Oh, now I am. I don’t even have a rice cooker at home. I just do in a pot because I really-

EL: That’s awesome. Because you are the rice cooker, yeah.

AC: I love it. I love making rice. It’s something that I’ve been doing since I was a kid.

EL: So, where was your dad cooking?

AC: My dad, his background … He was a locksmith for a really long time and that locksmith career turned into a general contracting career and so when he started doing construction, you know … There’s something about construction people and the often times they go to the hardware store, they have to buy a grill every year.

EL: This is a thing?

AC: It’s a thing. They have to buy … They’re at the hardware store all the time, so they see these beautiful, massive barbecue grills and my dad tends to buy one every single year, a bigger and better one, and in order to justify it, in order for my mom to get upset, we had to use it. So a lot of our Filipino food was cooked in the backyard because, A, my dad had to justify his purchases but, B, so that the house wouldn’t smell and my mom was a neat freak. She is a neat freak. She is very OCD. She doesn’t like anything … She’s crazy in a sense where she gets really upset when the house smells like garlic and in Filipino food, that’s inevitable, so we cooked a lot outside and while we did that, me and my dad started to develop our own style of Filipino food.

EL: Really?

AC: Yeah, instead of braising meats, we were grilling them and then we were saucing them with the traditional calamansi and soy sauce, garlic, chili type of mixture.

EL: So you were using Filipino flavors?

AC: Yes, but we were grilling like tri-tips. We were grilling pork chops. In the Philippines, that would be considered super-luxurious, right?

EL: Right, because most people don’t have a lot of money for meat.

AC: No, yeah, in the Philippines, you grow your own chickens and you have that one pig that you have for the special occasion.

EL: Got it.

AC: Yeah, so I was fortunate enough to have some pretty good Filipino food growing up because of my dad.

EL: That’s awesome. But then, I read your mother was a little worried that you were going off the rails, dude.

AC: Yeah.

EL: So, first of all, were you going off the rails?

AC: I was, I was. I was the product of the streets. I was a latchkey kid. My parents both worked until seven o’clock at night.

EL: Got it.

AC: And so the streets pretty much raised me from three to four o’clock and my parents-

EL: And that hour, you can get in a shit-load of trouble, man.

AC: Yeah, oh, and I did and that was a problem, you know? My parents caught me smoking a joint at such a young age and they were like, “Oh, my God, this kid.”

EL: Before your bar mitzvah.

AC: Dude, my parents were like, “Oh, that’s not what you’re supposed to be doing.” They would find packs of cigarettes.

EL: You’re supposed to be doing your homework, Alvin.

AC: Yeah, and at the time I was growing up, which was the early ’90s, that was what kids did. We were very-

EL: Yeah, that’s how you rebelled.

AC: Yeah, we were rebellious kids and so my mom was like, “You know what?” At 15-1/2, she was like, “You’ve got to get a job.” And I was like, “Okay, where?”

EL: Because you were headed down the wrong path.

AC: I really was and she got me a dish-washing job at a retreat house.

EL: At a retreat house because your mom was a devout Catholic, right?

AC: She’s a devout Catholic. She’s hardcore. She still works for the Catholic church.

EL: Wow.

AC: She got me a job right across the street from her office so she could keep tabs on me while I was at work and all of her nun friends would keep tabs on me.

EL: There’s nothing like being minded by multiple nuns.

AC: Oh, my gosh, dude, it was weird, you know? I still, in my car on my breaks, was getting stoned and the next thing you know, a nun would knock on your window and was like, “Hey!” And I’m like, “Oh, my God.”

EL: I’m smoking a joint and there’s a nun knocking on my window.

AC: On my window. And so I slowly started to change because their way of fixing that was giving me more responsibility and so I started to be like … At first, I was hired as a dishwasher and the next thing you know, I’m the janitor. Next thing you know, I’m the prep cook and the next thing you know, I’m on the line cooking food.

EL: Hilarious. So the joint was not … They didn’t hesitate to promote you, even with the joints.

AC: Also, what developed was that I worked hard.

EL: Got it.

AC: I wasn’t like … I was not a slacker. I was very, very much, almost like to prove my mom wrong.

EL: You were going to work your ass off.

AC: Yeah, I wanted to be the best. And so I really did. I gave it my all and I fell in love with the kitchen and that’s really where it all started professionally. Our kitchen manager, her son was attending the culinary institute and he would come by and do the special dinners for the priests and I would just watch him unravel his knife kit, pull out the shiny knives.

EL: And you thought that was the coolest thing ever.

AC: I was like, dude, that guy is so cool and so I would pick his brain. I’m like, “Culinary school, how is it, blah, blah, blah?” And the dude was so passionate about it and I was like, oh wow, maybe I’ll go to culinary school and I toyed that idea with my parents and they were not having it at all because, to them, that’s like a step back. They wanted me to go to a four-year college, get my degree.

EL: Yeah, because they didn’t want you to have to work as hard as they worked, right?

AC: Exactly.

EL: Isn’t that the traditional immigrant arc?

AC: Yeah, definitely. And I respected that, so with that respect, I did go to a regular college. I started off at Junior College and worked my way up to Loyola Marymount.

EL: And you know, there’s a weird thing that a lot of people don’t understand in California because I remember when I was in high school there, starting at Junior College and then going to a four-year school is not frowned upon.

AC: No.

EL: It’s not looked down on, whereas on the east coast, it’s a different thing. There, a lot of people would go to Junior College and then UCLA or Berkeley or whatever.

AC: Yeah, that’s how it was out where we’re from, especially if you’re a minority, it’s just an easier way to get into the universities. So that’s what I did and I ended up at Cal State Fullerton and finishing up there.

EL: Cheaper.

AC: Oh, yeah. It was so much cheaper. The business school was great.

EL: So you took business courses?

AC: Yeah, I took business courses there and I finished learning management and then I ended up getting a job at a construction company, actually one of my dad’s rivals, earlier on, and now I guess they work together, my dad was telling me the last time I saw him. So, yeah, I started doing that I started becoming an account executive where I would go to these places and bid for jobs and I hated it. Every day, in fact-

EL: It does not sound like you, man, I don’t know.

AC: Yeah, it was tough. It was very tough because every day I would look up recipes and then every Friday when I’d get my check, I would go to the grocery store, I would go to the gourmet grocery store, I would go to Costco. I would break down whole tenderloins and I would buy pork butts and I would smoke them all weekend and that was the thing I wanted to do. I was like, this is what I’m supposed to do. And one day, after wrapping up an invoice for $40,000 for a reconstruction of a bathroom, I think that was probably the line in the sand. I was like, I’ve got to do something different. I packed up and I went to Portland and I-

EL: Did you just quit or just walked out and never came back?

AC: Well, it worked out because there was an investigation going on with our company and they laid me off and gave me a severance pay.

EL: Perfect.

AC: So I left. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell my friends. I had a girlfriend at the time and I just left. I didn’t even tell her and I went straight to Portland and I went and I enrolled into culinary school.

EL: Wow.

AC: I went to culinary school there and then-

EL: And had enough money saved up to do that?

AC: Yeah, because of the severance pay, they were paying me monthly for a year.

EL: Sweet!

AC: So, for a year I was able to work for free so I staged at some of the best restaurants in Portland. I worked at Castagna with Matt Lightner, who eventually did Atera here in New York.

EL: Yeah.

AC: I did Olympia Provisions with Elias Castro.

EL: Great combo provisions, fantastic sausage place, hot dogs.

AC: Amazing charcuterie. I learned how to do charcuterie there. Then I ended up at 10 01, which was these two amazing chefs that came from Bouchon and Per Se, Mike Hannigan and Colin Stafford and they did the Thomas Keller way. And I fell in love with Thomas Keller’s books around that time and I wanted to work with them. So I ended up working with them for a while. That’s where I learned my chops from garde manger to all the way to junior sous chef.

EL: Yeah, it’s just funny when I’ve read a lot of articles about you, you have a reference for fine dining chefs.

AC: I do. I respect them.

EL: Even though you started a concept called Eggslut. That’s not the French Laundry, okay?

AC: No, it’s not. It was not at all. Actually, when I started Eggslut, I was scared because I had never worked in a fast, casual setting ever. And when I was younger, I never … I wish I worked, I didn’t know. That was the job I wanted, but then in my culinary career, I worked at really great restaurants, so I had no idea how to fun a fast, casual restaurant. And so I have this love for fine dining purely because that was the culture I was raised in. The way we ran Eggslut at the truck, everything was like-

EL: Station-to-station?

AC: Oh, man, it was super-neat. I remember one time the Health Department showed up, came in, and they were shocked that I had plastic bins perfectly labeled and everything neatly put away.

EL: That’s awesome.

AC: All of the napkins were perfectly folded. Everything was … And they were just like-

EL: Yes, because you came from the “Yes, chef” culture-

AC: Yeah, totally.

EL: … where, like if your station wasn’t super-clean at the end of the night-

AC: Oh, super-clean.

EL: … you’d be there.

AC: Yeah, Matt Lightner, when I worked at Castagna, we cleaned the kitchen four times a day. The moment we walked in, the entire staff would break down the kitchen and clean. Then we would start prepping and then at two o’clock, broke down and cleaned and this was a dinner only restaurant. Then at 5:30, right before six o’clock, we would clean again. And then we would clean at the end of service.

EL: So, no wonder your truck was so damned clean.

AC: It was pristine. And the Health Department was like, “This is unreal for us.” It was like a turning point in the food truck culture.

EL: Yeah, because that’s a lot of the reason why the bureaucracies look down on food trucks is they’re worried about-

AC: Because they’re dirty.

EL: … if they’re dirty and unsanitary.

AC: I mean, I’ve witnessed it. Where I parked my car, there was definitely questionable people running food trucks.

EL: Yeah.

AC: But, yeah, that’s when the Health Department person told me, “Wow, we really are going into the gourmet era of food trucks.” That was what they were telling me. And I’m like, “Yeah, this is like the YouTube of food because this is an easy way to get your stuff known, out there.”

EL: Yeah, that’s crazy. So that’s how Eggslut started and now it’s like an international phenomenon.

AC: Yeah, now it’s like-

EL: You have investors writing you blank checks.

AC: Oh, my gosh, the amount of messages I get on a daily basis with these new, young investors.

EL: Oh, yeah.

AC: And it’s like international. I just got one this morning from Singapore. They want me to do a pop-up there and I’m like, oh God, I don’t think I’ll be able to do this right now.

EL: That is so great.

AC: Yeah.

EL: We haven’t even talked about the logo. We haven’t talked about your interest in immigrant food. We haven’t talked about The Burger Show. But we are going to have to leave it here for this episode of Special Sauce.

AC: Okay.

EL: Okay?

AC: You got it.

EL: But I have plenty more questions for you. Everyone will hear your answers on part two. So, thanks for being here, Alvin Cailan.

AC: Thanks for having me.

EL: And we’ll see you next time, Serious Eaters.

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