Raising egg-spectations

Drew Davis, MBA’14, and Hunter Swartz, a Chicago Booth student, are growing the Eastman Egg Company.

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Restaurants have a terrible reputation in the business world, says Drew Davis, MBA’14. They’re seen as “impermanent and transitional and high turnover,” not a place to develop management and business skills or start a lasting career. Davis, who had worked in restaurants before coming to Chicago Booth, wanted to build a food company that would last and grow.

Hunter Swartz (left) and Drew Davis. (Photo courtesy Eastman Egg Company)

For Chicago Booth student Hunter Swartz, it was about filling his stomach and what he saw as an overlooked niche for fast, high-quality breakfasts. While training for a triathlon Swartz found himself grabbing a breakfast bar or an unappetizing microwavable egg sandwich before rushing into the office. Part of his Chicago Booth application essay described his plans to open a breakfast food truck that would cater to busy professionals.

That’s how Eastman Egg Company started, with a food truck in Chicago’s Loop. But Swartz soon realized “taking what is arguably your most important asset and driving it over Chicago potholes … was just not a good strategy,” says Davis. Swartz started thinking brick-and-mortar, and that’s when he and Davis started talking more seriously about beginning a partnership. Swartz also began taking advantage of the resources available through the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Today the Eastman Egg Company has two locations in the Loop and is opening another in the Lakeview neighborhood (and the food truck still makes appearances around Chicago). The company recently received $1.5 million in additional venture capital funding. Swartz, the CEO, and Davis, the COO and executive chef, now oversee about 40 employees and their sandwiches have garnered positive reviews from Time Out Chicago, Chicago Traveler, Thrillist, and more.

One innovation that sets the Eastman Egg Company apart from its competition, Davis believes, is its app. Customers order ahead through the app and then a passive Bluetooth signal alerts the kitchen when the customer is physically a set distance away, helping to have the order ready at exactly the right time. It “shows me that you’ve navigated all the trials and tribulations of your morning, and at that point I know that I can start cooking,” says Davis.

Davis and Swartz have plans to improve the app with loyalty programs and better customization, and they’re planning to expand outside of Chicago in the next couple of years; “The goal is to ultimately be a national restaurant brand,” says Davis.

Follow this recipe to make one of Davis’s egg sandwiches at home.

“The Solstice” egg sandwich

Yield: One sandwich

Ingredients

  • 1 ciabatta roll, toasted
     
  • 2 eggs
     
  • 2 slices of bacon, cooked
     
  • 1/2 avocado, sliced
     
  • 1/2 red onion, aggressively charred
     
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
     
  • Salt
     
  • 2 ounces Summer Sauce (recipe follows)

Directions

  1. Start with the red onions. Slice them into 3/4" thick rings and liberally apply olive oil, salt, and pepper. On a burner, a grill, or under a broiler, cook for 5–7 minutes until one side is completely black while leaving the other side untouched. This provides lots of different flavor and texture with just one ingredient.
     
  2. Crack the eggs into a small bowl and beat vigorously until the mixture is 100 percent uniform; this makes cooking much easier. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat for two minutes and add one tablespoon olive oil. Add the eggs all at once and allow to settle for one minute. The bottom should be firmly set while the top is still slightly wet. Fold the mixture in half, and then in half again. Cook 30 seconds per side or until the residual heat has cooked the eggs all the way through. Season with a bit of salt.
     
  3. Place the egg directly on the bottom bun; the rough surface of toasted bread prevents the egg from sliding around. The onions go on top of the egg, then add the avocado, bacon, and sauce. We tried every iteration of this sandwich, and we liked this order of toppings the best.
     
  4. Eat immediately.

Summer Sauce

Yield: 20 ounces
Shelf life: Three days

Ingredients

  • 500 grams silken tofu
     
  • 5 ears of corn
     
  • Juice of 2 limes
     
  • 25 grams basil
     
  • 10 grams salt

Directions

  1. Steam the ears of corn in their husks. The kernels should be just starting to shrivel and fall away from the cob easily when cut with a knife.
     
  2. Add the silken tofu, corn, lime juice, and salt to a bowl. Blend thoroughly until the texture of the sauce is uniform.
     
  3. Chiffonade the basil and fold it into the mixture. Taste for seasoning.

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