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Breakfast Breaks Free

Traditional breakfast fare is giving way to elevated offerings all throughout the day (not just in the morning)

Breakfast, often hailed as the most important meal of the day, has long held a prominent place in cultures worldwide. But, as lifestyles evolve and dietary trends shift, the concept of breakfast has adapted, giving rise to a plethora of options ranging from traditional hearty fare to innovative and convenient choices. Gone are the days of the all-American style breakfast plates; today’s caterers are thinking outside the breakfast box in terms of service, menus, and even time of day. 

“I think that during the pandemic folks started to really experience food in different ways, breakfast being near the top of that,” says Chef Joe Pina (Sodexo), who presented on the topic of breakfast during Catersource + The Special Event 2022. 

Top of the morning

Why the sudden surge in breakfast events? The answer lies in the changing lifestyles and preferences of attendees. 

“I think people are working harder and longer days, and it does not always allow for late evenings anymore, or perhaps they have kids now, so that is a change to the schedule,” says Gerald Luna (B Street Waffles).

“With people leading busier lives, there's a growing appreciation for the importance of starting the day with a nutritious meal,” Sebastien Centner (Eatertainment Events & Catering) adds. 

Hell's Kitchen in Minneapolis offers an impressive weekend Bloody Mary bar with all the fixin's: 243 different hot sauces, gourmet rim salts, olives, meats, cheeses, peppers, and even candy. Photo courtesy Hell's Kitchen

People are looking for innovative ways to engage and connect, and the breakfast setting provides a relaxed and casual atmosphere that encourages networking and socializing, making them popular choices for corporate meetings, networking events, and weekend gatherings with friends and family.

“They offer a refreshing and alternative experience,” says Sarah Kuhlberg (Colette’s Catering & Events). “They provide a relaxed atmosphere and cater to a diverse range of dietary preferences, making them inclusive and appealing to a broad audience. Brunch is breakfast's weekend alter ego—laid-back, inviting, and with an excuse to sip mimosas before noon. Plus, people are realizing that a good breakfast sets the tone for the day.”

In fact, more than three in five Americans (62%) say that breakfast is their favorite meal of the day, according to General Mills Foodservice. 

“The love for breakfast that people have is unmatched,” says Pina. 

One way to infuse creativity into your breakfast or brunch gatherings is by incorporating themes. Whether it's a tropical beach breakfast with exotic fruits and smoothie bowls or a vintage brunch with classic dishes and décor, themed events add an extra layer of excitement.

An added bonus to breakfast? “The food cost of serving breakfast items generally is much lower, pushes profits, and generates excitement for your selling product,” says Pina.

Sunnyside-up service 

As the breakfast trend gains popularity, it’s imperative to find creative ways to elevate the experience. One of the first places to start is with the type of service. 

“Fresh fruit for a breakfast buffet used to be the old hotel style: slice it, platter it up, maybe decorate it a little bit,” said Michael Stavros (M Culinary Concepts) during Catersource + The Special Event 2023. “Now, it’s all about abundance, it’s all about choice, it’s all about that amazing display that just grabs your eye. You can’t just rely on the attraction of the food itself anymore.”

Top 10 Favorite Breakfast Foods 

  1. Eggs - 72%
  2. Cereal - 51%
  3. Pancakes - 51%
  4. Breakfast Sandwiches - 48%
  5. Waffles - 45%
  6. French Toast - 44%
  7. Bagels - 40%
  8. Doughnuts - 35%
  9. Cinnamon Rolls - 34%
  10. Muffins - 33%

Information above courtesy General Mills Foodservice

Consider replacing the standard buffet with interactive gourmet stations. Think made-to-order omelet bars, build-your-own breakfast sandwich stations, a pancake and waffle bar, a fresh fruit and yogurt parfait setup, oatmeal bars, crepe stations, and of course everyone’s favorite, the doughnut or bagel wall. Add a touch of fun and creativity by playing with shapes, colors, and textures. Try crafting pancake art, rainbow fruit skewers, or granola cups to make breakfast not only visually appealing but also a delightful culinary experience.

"I believe that stations are so key,” says Pina. “They can give tapas-style items where guests can really try so many items and you won’t feel trapped into one item to fill them up.”

On the beverage side of things, think artisanal coffees and teas as well as mimosa or Bloody Mary bars.

“Customization really is key at breakfast events,” says Centner, “it allows guests to tailor their breakfast experience to their preferences.” 

Rise and shine

Beyond the style of service, how food is presented is also key. Visual appeal and “Instagrammability” have played a large part in why brunch has become such big business.

“Breakfast items offer a versatile canvas for culinary creativity,” says Centner. “It’s also fun to get creative with the format of a dish, going with the unexpected. 

“Breakfast can be elevated by focusing on quality ingredients, innovative presentation, and culinary craftsmanship. Incorporating unexpected flavor combinations, experimenting with unique textures, and paying attention to plating aesthetics can elevate traditional breakfast dishes to gourmet culinary experiences.”

A key to elevating breakfast offerings is to invest in fresh, local ingredients. 

“Build something with ingredients a customer knows, but in a very unique way,” says Pina.

Mega Trends 

  1. Elevated comfort food - 53%
  2. Healthy/better-for-you - 50%
  3. Monster & mini sandwiches - 48%
  4. Premium ingredients - 47%
  5. Unique breakfast sandwich carriers - 43%
  6. Global influences - 41%
  7. Breakfast food trucks - 40%
  8. Mediterranean - 38%
  9. Smoothies - 33%

Information above courtesy Datassential’s Breakfast Keynote Report 

Also, get creative with your presentation and your flavor combinations. From taking steak and eggs to an elevated filet mignon topped with a poached egg and chipotle bechamel or building the ultimate breakfast sandwich with shaved ribeye, eggs, Boursin cheese, and balsamic glaze, these items will bring your breakfast to the next level.

“Elevating food at breakfast and at brunch isn’t just about steak and eggs, it's reinventing steak and eggs into an hors d’oeuvre,” said Stavros. “I love breakfast hors d’oeuvres and breakfast small plates because it’s a great way to control costs, it’s a great way to control the flow of food out to the floor, and it works great within a client’s timeline and just presents a gorgeous piece of food.”

According to General Mills Foodservice, 66% of Americans love a creative twist on breakfast menu items.

“Experimenting with gourmet twists on traditional breakfast items can add a touch of sophistication,” adds Kuhlberg.  

Beyond traditional breakfast

One of the biggest trends in breakfast currently is fusion cuisine and international influences, providing a diverse and culturally rich culinary experience.

“Don’t get us wrong—a simple bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit needs no improvement,” says Carizza Rose (24 Carrots Catering & Events). “But breakfast foods are not inherently upscale, so we love any opportunity to get creative and play with our food to offer tasty twists on traditional bites.”

Offer a breakfast buffet featuring items like Japanese matcha pancakes, Spanish churro bites, or Indian masala omelets. Think savory options like shakshuka, ramen noodles with soft scrambled eggs, huevos rancheros, or congee that bring a spicy and satisfying dimension to breakfast.

Breakfast foods aren’t solely reserved for early mornings anymore, either. As breakfast transcends its traditional time slot, caterers are finding innovative ways to serve morning delights during lunches, afternoon breaks, and even during evening events.

“Our breakfast foods should be able to be enjoyed any time of day,” says Rose. “‘Breakfast for Dinner’ is the epitome of this—who doesn’t love a late-night waffle or melty egg and cheese sandwich? It seems wrong in theory, but it tastes so right!”

According to General Mills Foodservice, three-quarters (79%) of Americans have eaten breakfast foods for meals other than breakfast in the past year. 

“Repurposing breakfast items for other meals offers a creative and versatile approach to culinary experimentation,” says Luna. 

Leftover pancakes or waffles can transform into mini pizzas, sliders, or sandwiches. Croque madames with quail eggs can be served as bite-sized hors d'oeuvres. Yogurt parfaits, cinnamon rolls, and waffles can be transformed into desserts. Why have a BLT when you can have a mini potato waffle with applewood-smoked bacon, melted white cheddar, and garlic crème fraîche? Instead of chicken and waffles, consider a maple-glazed fried chicken slider with freshly made beignets for buns.

“Each offers something familiar with a bit of sophistication and a side of nostalgia—an ideal combination for an elevated breakfast bite,” says Rose.
The unexpected fusion of breakfast and dinner creates a unique and delightful dining experience.

Extend the festivities into the late hours with interactive late-night breakfast stations. Think of a “midnight breakfast” spread with indulgent offerings like bacon-wrapped French toast bites, mini maple-glazed sausage skewers, and a selection of gourmet doughnuts. 

As breakfast finds its way onto the menu beyond traditional morning hours, the possibilities for creating memorable and unique events are endless. 

“Caterers should remember that breakfast catering isn't just about the food; it's also about creating a welcoming and inviting atmosphere,” says Centner. “Pay attention to presentation, ambiance, and hospitality to ensure that breakfast events leave a lasting impression on guests.”

So, rise and shine—the future of breakfast events is looking deliciously bright!

Bon appetit!

Pastrami Hash 

Recipe and photo courtesy Colette’s Catering & Events 

Yield: 20

Ingredients for Pastrami Hash 

2½ lb Navel beef pastrami
3 lb Brussels sprouts
2½ lb sweet potatoes
20 ea. poached eggs
35 oz chipotle hollandaise (recipe below)
20 oz rice-yuzu vinaigrette (recipe below)
2½ oz green onion


  1. Blanch Brussels sprouts halves.
  2. Par-bake sweet potato.
  3. Combine the vegetables and deep fry for one minute at 350°.
  4. On a flat top, cook the pastrami until golden brown.
  5. In a mixing bowl toss the vegetables with the rice-yuzu vinaigrette.
  6. Plate the vegetables at the bottom and place the pastrami on top, creating a nest where you will place the poached eggs that were previously cooked.
  7. Finish the plating with the chipotle hollandaise and garnish with thinly sliced green onion.

Ingredients for Chipotle Hollandaise 

9 ea. egg yolks, at room temperature 
6 tsp lemon juice 
3 T chipotle peppers in adobo sauce 
¾ tsp sugar 
4 sticks of unsalted butter 
Salt to taste 


  1. Place the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until melted and hot. Alternatively, you can melt the butter in the microwave; make sure to cover it and that the butter is hot. If the butter is not hot, it will not emulsify.
  2. Add the egg yolks, 1 T hot water, chipotle pepper, salt, sugar, and lemon juice to the blender. Blend for 10 seconds till it is well combined; keep the blender running on medium-high and slowly stream melted hot butter into the mixture. Blend for another 30-45 seconds until emulsified. If the hollandaise is too thick, slowly drizzle in another tablespoon of hot water and blend until combined.
  3. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

Ingredients for Rice-Yuzu Vinaigrette 

4 oz seasoned rice wine vinegar
2 oz yuzu juice
18 oz grapeseed oil
Salt and pepper to taste 


Combine all ingredients. Before using the vinaigrette make sure to shake for each dish.

Poached Eggs + Spinach 

Recipe and photo courtesy Colette’s Catering & Events 

Yield: 20

Ingredients for Poached Eggs + Spinach 

40 ea. poached eggs
60 ea. toasted focaccia crostini
6o oz tangy yogurt sauce (recipe below)
10 oz Urfa chili oil (recipe below)
1 oz sesame seeds
4 oz roasted pepita seeds
20 oz spinach 


  1. In order, plate the tangy yogurt sauce and sauteed spinach.
  2. Place the poached eggs in the center with the toasted focaccia.
  3. Drizzle the warm Urfa chili oil and garnish with the pepita and sesame seeds mixture.

Ingredients for Tangy Yogurt Sauce 

60 oz Greek yogurt
6 oz lemon juice
1 oz lemon zest
2 oz garlic paste


Combine all ingredients and whisk together in a bowl and season to taste with salt.

Ingredients for urfa chili oil

4 oz Urfa chili
4 oz grapeseed oil
2 oz butter
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
Salt and pepper 


  1. At very low heat simmer all ingredients for 10 minutes. 
  2. Keep warm and use as needed.

Ribeye “Steak & Eggs” Breakfast Sando with Boursin Cheese & Balsamic Glaze

Recipe and photo courtesy Chef Joe Pina, Bridgewater State University (Sodexo)

Yield: 2


10 oz shaved ribeye
3 oz red onions
4 oz Boursin cheese
3 ea. eggs
1 oz balsamic glaze
2 ea. ciabatta or Telera rolls
5 T butter


  1. First, trim ribeye and freeze. Once solid pull from freezer and slice.
  2. Take red onions and julienne. Take 2½ T of butter and over medium heat begin to caramelize onions.
  3. Take remaining butter and toast the rolls.
  4. Begin cooking the ribeye and season with salt and pepper. While that is cooking begin to scramble the eggs. Cook them at the same time as the ribeye.
  5. To assemble: Put the caramelized onions on the bottom, followed by the ribeye. Lay the scrambled egg patty down and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Spread a thick layer of the Boursin cheese on the top crown of the roll.
  6. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Photo courtesy Kikkoman

Kaya Toast with Coconut Jam and Egg Cloud

Recipe courtesy Lon Symensma, ChoLon Modern Asian

Yield: 24

Ingredients for Coconut Jam 

1,125 g coconut milk 
600 g sugar 
10 g salt
587 g whole eggs 
200 g egg yolks 
2 ea. pandan leaves

Ingredients for Egg Cloud Foam

506 g whole eggs
113 g butter, melted and cooled
85 g milk 
6 g salt

Ingredients for the Plate

Pullman bread sliced ¼-inch thick, crusts removed
Coconut Jam (recipe above)
Egg Cloud Foam (recipe above)
Coarsely ground white pepper
Kikkoman® Soy Sauce in a mister


  1. To prepare Coconut Jam, purée all ingredients except pandan leaves. Pour equal amounts of mixture into two Cryovac bags, adding one pandan leaf per bag; vacuum and seal bags. Cook in a sous vide bath at 180°F for one hour or until completely cooked and thickened. Remove mixture from bag and blend with a large immersion blender. Press through a chinois and place in a large bowl. Cover the surface directly with plastic wrap to avoid forming a skin while it cools.
  2. To prepare Egg Cloud Foam, purée all ingredients and place in a medium sized Cryovac bag. Vacuum and seal bag. Cook in a sous vide bath at 162.5°F. Cook for 10 minutes, then remove bag from water and knead bag slightly to mix. Cook for a few minutes more or until slightly thickened, but not curdled. (Mixture will cook quickly at this point.) Strain through a China cap. Pour into CSI gun and dispense two nitrous canisters into gun, shaking vigorously between each charger.
  3. When ready to serve, butter bread and toast until golden brown on both sides. Spread Coconut Jam generously on one side of toast.
  4. Dispense the Egg Cloud Foam into small ramekins; top with pepper and a mist of soy sauce. Place a ramekin on plate with bread and serve immediately. 

NOTE: For a slightly different twist, sliced rustic bread may be substituted for the Pullman bread.

Salmon Pastrami Flatbread 

Recipe and photo courtesy 24 Carrots Catering & Events


3" x 8" flatbread
3 lbs salmon filets, skin on, deboned, and trimmed 
12 oz course salt
12 oz granulated sugar 
1 T fennel seed, toasted and ground 
1 T coriander seed, toasted and ground 
1½ cups molasses
1 tsp cayenne pepper 
1 T paprika 
1 T brown sugar 
1 T garlic powder 
1 cup crème fraîche 
Meyer lemon 
Caviar, for garnish
Micro herbs, to finish


  1. Combine the course salt and granulated sugar. Place a rack on a sheet pan. Place salmon on the rack, skin side down. Cover the flesh of the salmon with the salt and sugar mixture. Cover and place in fridge to cure for a minimum of 24 hours, no longer than 32 hours. Remove from fridge and rinse in cold water. Pat dry. Place a new rack on top of a new baking sheet. Place salmon on the new rack and set aside.
  2. Combine ground fennel seed, ground coriander, paprika, brown sugar, and garlic powder until well-combined. Set aside. Combine Meyer Lemon and crème fraîche. Set aside.
  3. Combine the molasses and cayenne pepper in a small pot. Warm over low heat until combined and loosed in consistency. Brush the glaze onto the salmon. Sprinkle the spice mixture over the salmon flesh as much as possible. Cover and refrigerate salmon for 12 hours. 

To Assemble

Preheat over to 450°. Toast the flatbread in the oven until crisp around the edges and golden brown. Slice salmon to paper-thin slices. Spread crème fraîche mixture on flatbread. Lay salmon slices on top. Garnish with micro greens and a small dollop of caviar. Cut into pieces and serve.

Mini Potato Waffle Bites 

Recipe and photo courtesy 24 Carrots Catering & Events


2 cups shredded potatoes
1 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper 
2 large eggs, beaten
¼ cup onion, grated 
2 T butter, melted 
2 oz white cheddar, shredded 
1½ cups bacon, cooked and julienned
1 cup crème fraîche 
1 oz chives, chopped 
1 tsp lemon juice 
½ T roasted garlic, puréed
Micro parsley, to finish 


  1. Combine crème fraîche and chopped chives, lemon juice, and roasted garlic. Set aside.
  2. Combine dry ingredients with shredded potato, eggs, onion, and butter. Mix until ingredients reach batter-like consistency.
  3. Preheat oven and waffle maker to 325°. Coat waffle maker with cooking spray. Add three ouces of batter, close lid, and cook until crispy and golden brown, about three to four minutes. Remove from waffle maker and cut into bite-size squares.
  4. Place waffle bites on a sheet pan and top with shredded white cheddar. Bake in the over for four to five minutes or until the cheeses is melted 

To Assemble

Remove waffles from oven and top with garlic chive crème fraîche, bacon, and micro parsley to serve. 

Nutella Stuffed Crème Brûlée French Toast with Whipped Cream and Berries

Recipe and photo courtesy Chef Joe Pina, Bridgewater State University (Sodexo)

Yield: 6


12 ea. slightly stale slices brioche
2 cups whole milk
3 ea. eggs
2 T sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
¼ tsp salt
6 oz Nutella
Butter, for cooking
Turbinado raw sugar, for garnish
Fresh whipped cream, for garnish
Fresh berries, for garnish


  1. To make the French toast, lay out six slices of the bread and spread the Nutella filling evenly on each of them. Top each with one of the remaining slices of bread.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla, and salt, then pour the custard into a wide, shallow pan. Place sandwiches into the egg mixture and let them soak until soft, about 30 seconds. Turn the sandwiches over and let the other side soak.
  3. Heat griddle over medium heat. Add butter. Once melted, lift the sandwiches from the egg mixture and transfer them to the griddle. Cook until firm and golden on the bottom. Just before you flip them, sprinkle a layer of turbinado sugar on the top of each sandwich and cook the other side.
  4. To serve cut the sandwiches in half, caramelized sugar side up. Serve with whipped cream and berries.

Amber Kispert

Senior Content Producer

Amber is the Senior Content Producer for Catersource. Amber previously worked as a Communications Specialist for LeClair Group and a reporter for the Woodbury Bulletin, both located in Woodbury, Minn.  As a self-described "foodie," Amber loves to experience the world of food and beverages, and is excited to help share the stories of Catersource and the world's caterers.