If cuisine is king, atmosphere is the prime minister of the restaurant world.
No one understands this concept better than Larry Hanes, owner, interior designer and executive chef of Eggshell Bistro at Carmel City Center. A designer by trade, Larry holds every component part of a diner’s experience in equality, weaving the tiniest details into complete layers.
Speaking of cuisine, Larry’s concept of globally inspired brunching is wooing restaurant goers to the final frontier of dining: the ethnic breakfast. Curious creations offer not only an education as to what the rest of the world is eating for breakfast, but also unique layers and pairings of flavors that you can seldom find without passport in hand.
I met Larry to get the lowdown on Eggshell’s quirky-chic atmosphere and internationally influenced food.
Kate: Tell me more about your background. Have you always been a chef?
Larry: In college, I started out in chemical engineering, but I had a creative side that wasn’t being fed, so I got bored. From there, I decided I wanted to be a designer. I went to undergrad at the Art Academy of Cincinnati and got my master’s degree at University of Cincinnati. After school, I worked as an art director, illustrator and photographer. I had corporate jobs for design, but also did freelance work in illustration.
Kate: So how did Eggshell Bistro come about?
Larry: I’ve always been interested in cooking. My training in design and innovation fueled my culinary creativity. I’m used to specific, theory-guided patterns of thought, so cooking comes naturally to me. When I’m plating, I look at colors, textures, repetition and symmetry. Cooking uses the same palate of ideas as design.
Kate: Tell me more about the inspiration for the menu.
Larry: In the United States, we often get in a headlock with breakfast. The traditional American breakfast is fun to eat sometimes, but wouldn’t it be great to have a different option just to twist it up? There’s such a wealth of history in the breakfast world. I love to talk to people from other countries and ask them what they had for breakfast as a kid, or which restaurants they frequented in their country. I also do a lot of reading and research. I look at the menu from above, with a bird’s eye view, to make sure I have variety in the items I serve, but that each dish also compliments one another. I make the Moroccan Shakshuka, which is tomato-based, so if I do another tomato thing, it has to be different somehow. The dishes must come together on the menu as a team. Every dish has a job.
Kate: What do you want anyone who dines at Eggshell Bistro to come away knowing?
Larry: I hope people appreciate the originality. I hang all original artwork on the walls, including paintings by both myself and my late wife. I’ve also collected the antique coffee cans in which we serve packets of sweetener for 15 years. There are a lot of little details hidden about the restaurant.
The food also reflects the idea of originality. Nothing is mass-produced. I’ve had people from France say that Eggshell’s quiche is the best quiche they’ve ever had. We serve dishes – like the Shakshuka and kedgeree – that would be difficult to find elsewhere.