Sure, riffing on the standards is what chefs do. But sometimes, resetting that mindset, getting back to basics and revisiting classic sandwiches can lead to menu items that’ll have your customers saying, “Hello, old friend.”
By returning to the original components of iconic sandwiches and tweaking minimally—better ingredients, subtle additions—smart chefs are making the most of not reinventing the wheel.
A redesigned dining hall at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., has meant an updated look and new concepts, but students tend to prefer the back-to-basics approach when it comes to their favorite sandwiches.
“This may sound weird coming from a chef, but with certain things I don’t get too creative,” says Steve Giuffrida, chef with Pedestal Foods at Lindenwood University. “Sometimes people just really want the classics.”
At Lindenwood University, those classics include ham and cheese, which Giuffrida has not reinvented, but elevated.
“Let’s look at the products you’re using. The kind of ham, and your bread is a big thing; you can find some really great breads,” he says. “And for grilled cheese, there are so many ways you can go. Why not use brioche and feta cheese?”
And good old American cheese still has a place on grilled cheese and many other sandwiches, with the kitchen at Lindenwood University going through about 40 pounds a week of the familiar sliced squares.
Chicken salad sandwiches get punched up with a smoky flavor that comes from barbecued chicken from a smoker in the back. Chicken legs, with their higher fat content, are best for this application, Giuffrida says. The smoker handles not only the chicken, but also other meats—including brisket—that’s shredded for sandwiches.