Food innovation put Paul Cao on the map.
The Irvine dad is the guy behind the Spaghetti Grilled Cheese.
One night in 2013, he peeked into the fridge for something to eat. All he saw was a plate of leftover spaghetti and a hunk of mozzarella. A loaf of sourdough sat on the counter.
Cao squished the spaghetti into a patty to fit the square bread, topped it with some cheese, put it on the stove on low heat under a lid and went to take a shower.
When he came back, oh my.
Three years later, he opened Burnt Crumbs and put it on the menu. He thought it might last a few weeks.
But someone put a sandwich-pull- apart video of it on Facebook and a star was born. The video racked up 4 million views – in a week.
Four years later, it is still his No. 1 bestseller, and a TV darling of the Food Network and the Cooking Channel.
But innovators don’t rest.
A few months ago, Cao and his three partners (they all grew up in Irvine) decided to create something new for 2020.
When he looked online, souffle pancakes were all the rage in Asia, judging by the videos with millions of views.
So Cao tried to make one. For seven straight weeks, day and night, one pancake after another deflated. He figures he went through 1,000 eggs.
He was about to give up but decided to use up his remaining batter, tossed it in the pan and walked away.
When he came back — hallelujah chorus.
In addition to being delicious, they’re beautiful. Puffy little pillows of delight. They’re now served Saturdays and Sundays at Burnt Crumbs in the Los Olivos Marketplace.