Welcome to Eggville! In this series created for City Bites, I will attempt to test out some of my unscientific theories over breakfast with icons of the city’s food scene. The question: What does the way we eat our eggs say about us? I am also hoping to discover some of the city’s hidden greasy spoons and old-school diners while getting to know more about its personalities. Each guest will choose their favourite breakfast joint and walk me through the choices, preferences, and rituals surrounding their morning meal.
The Eater: James Jefferson, co-owner/creative director of Ottawa’s ultra fashionable marketing firm, Blackbook Lifestyle
The Place: ARC Lounge inside the ARC Hotel
The Story: When I ran into James Jefferson at an Ottawa Magazine party recently, he was effusive in accepting my Eggville invitation. Though he isn’t known as a food person, I was intrigued about where one of the city’s most connected image-makers — the man known for his extravagant A-list parties — indulges in some morning-after-the-night-before fare. The promise of eggs and caviar and champagne made me feel like a BFF dining with Paris Hilton. When it came time to book our date, Jefferson had chosen the Arc Lounge, the unofficial HQ for Blackbook meetings and events, a veritable runway for local socialites and celebs. “I am here at least once a week. I like the ambiance and the food is amaaazing,” says Jefferson playing the role of consummate PR professional. Stepping into his artiste shoes, he added, “A lot of it is presentation. It’s ‘yum’ but it’s presented so beautifully too.”
When our server approaches, Jefferson’s request for a Mimosa (“Don’t judge me,” he quips) is met with the response that no alcohol could be served before 11 a.m. His cheerful demeanor shifts, and things began to get a little, well, uncomfortable.
The next surprise comes when, rather than ordering eggs (recall, this was the whole point of this meeting), Jefferson orders the fashion model’s delight: fruit and yoghurt. For a moment I felt like I was about to get Punk’d. He chooses this moment to explain that he doesn’t eat breakfast; mornings are spent in front of the computer. “Then I eat an enormous dinner and regret it,” he says with the dry delivery and self-effacing wit of a TV sitcom script.
After some awkward silence and poking at our food, he leans in and asks demurely, “Do you like junk food?” Next thing I know, he’s confessing to a recent rendezvous at Wendy’s with Blackbook partner Daniel Mackinnon for a double hamburger and french fries. Apparently it was 3 p.m. and the dynamic duo dashed in for a fast-food fix dressed to the nines before an evening gala. “It was like the taco episode of Will & Grace!” he says.
And what about eggs? Does he prefer them scrambled or sunny side up? Jefferson, who was raised in Nepean, says he ate hard-boiled eggs as a kid (“My mom is an amazing cook”) but he would only eat the yolks and his brother would only eat the whites — but never from the same egg. “We were complete opposites,” he says.
In an attempt to change the subject and deflect the uncomfortable attention being paid to his bowl of yoghurt, now mixed together somewhat manically into something more like muesli, he pulls out his camera and snaps a photo of me and my barely-touched plate of bacon and eggs. The tension is getting unbearable so we settle up, swap air kisses and prepare to part and get on with our days. “I’m never having breakfast with you again!” he says. Delivered in a wink-wink way with a flash of his pearly whites, it doesn’t even feel like an insult.
The Analysis: This could have been a Freudian feast. First came the rebelliousness of refusing to order eggs — perhaps driven by a fear about what might be revealed. And then came the series of “red flags,” including morning cocktails and a confession that he only eats junk food when no one is looking. Next there was the story about the brother, the mother and the un-shared egg — don’t even get me started. It all begs the question: Is this the real James Jefferson or is this just a case of the spin master taking the media for a ride?