Having just launched the new FreshDirect Sandwich Shop, Chef Tina Bourbeau chats with us about eating her way through Philadelphia’s legendary sandwich shops, developing the FreshDirect line and what it takes to go from a good sandwich to a great sandwich.
Q. So tell us about the sandwich launch. What made you decide to go down that path?
TB: “Philly inspired the sandwiches. The thing that amazed me about Philly was, I thought we were going to go there and eat eight thousand Philly cheesesteaks. But wherever we went, every sandwich stood on its own. There was infinite variety and infinite quality.”
Q. FreshDirect has never done a line of sandwiches, so how did you approach your research?
TB: “Well, we knew right off we weren’t going to do a Philly cheesesteak. That’s a sandwich that has to come straight off the grill. It has to be cooked à la minute. So we looked for things that were roasted or braised. And honestly, I didn’t think sandwiches could be done because of the bread. The key really is to toast the bread. The toasting is a must, not a suggestion. It’s is the only way for the sandwich to be good through and through.”
Q. I know it’s hard to pick favorites, but if you had to pick a favorite…
TB: “I am not (or should I say, wasn’t) a hot turkey sandwich person. I’ve changed my own mind on this one. We are using really great ingredients here and this one is a classic. As for the torta, when I first presented this sandwich in a tasting, it was flat; definitely lacking in the love department. The potential was obvious but the work was not complete. Back to the drawing board. I knew the fix was going to be simple: acid, texture, balance… all of which were lacking. Problem solved with the spicy, crunchy, lime-y pepita salsa.”
Q. Yeah, the condiments on these sandwiches are really exciting.
TB: “One of my favorite things about this line is the condiments and garnishes that I came up with. Sweet potato mustard, pepita salsa, Fritos! My old chef used to refer to these types of elements as the ‘zing-zing,’ as in, the extra, the love, the difference.”
Q. I had one of the vegetarian sandwiches. It was surprisingly filling!
TB: “Absolutely. You could feed two people if you split it in half and served it with a soup or a salad. It’s a meaty vegetarian sandwich. Lots of olive oil, lots of spinach, and then it’s dressed with pesto and chopped picholine olives. I call these fork and knife sandwiches. Triple napkin sandwiches. These are not walking-around sandwiches. They’re sandwich events.”