Like you, I have found myself enraptured by the elegant and skilled hands of our local sandwich artisans. The braver elements of these Brahmin class ply their art at the likes of Togos, Subway and myriad other independent sandwich shops right out in the open for all to see, ably performing their gastronomical ballet—though rarely with their feet.
Recently—through a friend of a friend—I was introduced to one of these fabulous stars, and they agreed to an interview—as long as I didn't mention their name, where they work or their sex. Other than that, anything went, and I took full advantage to ask all the questions you could only dream of asking.
OC Weekly:So. Sandwiches.Sandwich artist:[. . .] Have you always been someone who enjoyed making sandwiches?
Actually, no. Growing up, my mom always made my lunch. I really wasn't much of a sandwich [person]. You know, I prefer to have a piece of pizza or something like that. If I had a sandwich, it would be something simple like peanut butter or ham.
Peanut butter and ham—is that one of your new creations?
I said peanut butter or ham.
But what about any hot new creations you have for the holidays? Anything you've been cooking up at home that you're ready to spring on the world?
I don't create the sandwiches. They have a whole training thing that tells you how to make the sandwiches, right down to how much meat, you know, like in exact ounces, you put on the sandwich. Everything is measured. Everything. So there's nothing really creative about it.
Do you find that stifling to your creativity?
You mean, like, what, like creative artistically?
No, like making sandwiches creative—creative sandwich-wise.
No. I don't consider making sandwiches like something creative. It's just a job. I'm told what to do, and then I do it. I mean, anyone can do this. They tell you exactly how to make the sandwiches, and you just follow the instructions.
And yet you're onstage when you're doing it, so it's kind of creative. People are watching you; I guess it's kind of like a performance.
Do you ever get nervous, you know, when you're onstage?
No. I'm too busy working.
Well, I've been at the counter. I've seen the customers; they sometimes look a little nervous.
Yeah, they can get really involved. Most people are pretty nice, but there are some people, they just walk up, no hello or anything, and they tell you what they want in, like, the greatest detail, and then they watch you like a hawk. You try to go about your job and pretend you don't notice them, but you can feel them staring at you.
What are they looking for?
I'm not sure. I don't know if they're afraid I'm going to spit in their sandwich or . . . I think they're probably watching to make sure that I do exactly what they said. Some people really get into this, and you'll hear them groaning if they think you've screwed up or they'll just yell commands at you the whole time: "That's too much oil." "I don't want the end piece." "Put the tomato on top of the lettuce." People have all these little preferences when it comes to sandwiches, like if it isn't done exactly like they want, they're going to throw up the minute they eat it.
Who's worse, women or men?
Oh, women—by far. Guys, for the most part, they just give you the order, pretty much ask for everything, and that's the last you hear from them. But women, I don't know, maybe it's because they feel all this pressure to eat right, but they will critique everything you do. They'll say, "Oh, that's too much," and you want to say, "You know, you're getting a pound and a half of meat on this sandwich. Maybe the oil isn't what you should be worrying about."
Is there . . .
. . . and the worst of the women are the skinny 100-pound ones with a cell phone in their ear. You know, they're yelling at their maid in the phone, and then they take turns yelling at you. I'd have to say the worst thing about this job is having one of these women on her tip-toes yelling at the top of my head like the only thing I have to do today that's important is make her sandwich.