Childhood friends Ryan Bryson and Darnell Ferguson's new venture SuperChef's and more whopping Columbus breakfasts
It all started with oatmeal.
Inspired by the trend toward healthier eating, childhood friends Ryan Bryson and Darnell Ferguson started a gourmet oatmeal line featuring flavors like pumpkin pie and peanut butter and jelly. When Ferguson, a trained chef, and Bryson, who handles the business side, couldn't persuade enough grocery stores to carry the oatmeal, they decided to sell it themselves, opening their own restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, in 2012.
Taking a cue from their over-the-top oatmeals, Bryson and Ferguson created a breakfast and lunch menu that emphasized towering plates of artfully arranged food like red velvet pancakes, root beer float waffles and barbecue chicken flatbreads. The Columbus natives called it SuperChef's Breakfast & More-using the nickname Ferguson was given during a stint cooking for the U.S. Olympic team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
The duo soared home last year and opened their second SuperChef's location, this time in downtown Columbus. Because when it comes to breakfast, there's good. There's great. And there's super. "We provide the show for breakfast," Bryson says. "We bring the excitement back to breakfast."
Building excitement is the key. Giant banners depicting red velvet pancakes and sweet-and-sour burgers posted out front are big enough to be spotted by drivers on Broad Street. Bryson was inspired by East Coast eateries decorated with large photos of the food. The banners make a promise, he says. "It's an accountability thing," Bryson says. "If I'm brave enough to plaster these pictures on my window, it shows you I am confident enough to produce picture-quality food out of the kitchen. Everyone's reaction is, 'Wow, it actually looks like the picture.' "
Aside from the bright red sign and lineup of photos out front, the SuperChef's restaurant is decorated in muted pastels and a faux wooden floor. Diners sit in standard-issue restaurant chairs and tables, while servers jog around in black T-shirts. The real fireworks are in the kitchen and on your plate. The cooks' attention to detail translates into colorful food and delightful plating.
"Our mission is affordable art on a plate," Bryson says, adding he hopes these pleasing culinary aesthetics become their signature. "We just don't want to be ordinary. We want to wow; we want to make sure every time someone posts a picture to any social media site, before you read the caption, you know it's SuperChef's just from the presentation."
Their dishes certainly are recognizable-like the Baked Alaskan Banana Pudding Pancakes, a towering stack of perfectly rounded golden pancakes layered with banana pudding and topped with a dollop of torched meringue. The pancakes are cut-with-a-fork soft; it's hard to tell the difference between them, the pudding and the meringue.
They take the "Super" in the restaurant name seriously; waffles and quesadillas, dubbed "superdillas," are named after comic book heroes. The biggest and brawniest of these, The Hulk, manifests as a deep green waffle sandwich crammed with eggs, cheese, house-made sausage and candied bacon. Think before picking it up-they drizzle the sandwich with maple syrup.
Bryson and Ferguson haven't forsaken their roots: The peanut butter and jelly oatmeal stays on the menu in the form of a giant bowl of steel-cut oats cooked with peanut butter and topped with blueberry jelly.
The dynamic duo plans to continue taking Columbus breakfast up, up and away. They're eyeing Gahanna for a second Ohio location, with the hopes of eventually expanding to every corner of Columbus.