We ate all the sandwiches so you didn’t have to
People love sandwiches.
I mean, this is obvious. But it’s often a very low-key love, it’s rare to see a collective love-in for the sandwich like at last weekend’s Toronto Sandwich Festival. Wychwood Barns was filled with sandwich makers and sandwich lovers. Attendees got sandwich passports and visited the six different sandwich booths for samples.
Don’t worry, your intrepid reporters from The Dialog were on the scene, eating sandwiches and asking the tough questions, and most importantly eating sandwiches.
Questions like, “how did you get into the sandwich business?”
For Kitson Vincent, of Kitson and Co. Sandwiches, it was a long journey. He worked a bunch of different jobs in different industries and locations. Finally he asked himself the big questions.
“What did I want to do? What did I want to cook? What did I love?” he recalled. “Sandwiches is what I came up with.”
I scribbled down quotes while eating a sandwich (priorities). The sauce was especially delicious and made the vegetables awesome. Kitson and Co. is located at Queen and Dufferin and is getting some recognition from BlogTo and Toronto Life. It’s clear that the love of sandwiches is driving the success.
Doris Miculan-Bradley was serving up veggie sandwiches at a booth with George Brown College (GBC) volunteers. She is a professor at the school for hospitality and tourism management—though the sandwich festival feels like and is a successfully community event, is also an event put on as the “capstone” for students in the special event management program and was planned entirely by students.
“I teach them the theory but you never learn something like this sitting in a classroom,” said Bradley adding that the capstone events are invaluable experience for students.
GBC student Natasha Harrison, was making sandwiches with Bradley and said that the capstone events “showcase what we’ve learned through the years and really put our learning into action.”
My personal favourite, bacon was also in the house. I’m biased because I love bacon —well, truth be told I’m actually kind of particular about my bacon. I don’t like cheap bacon, or peameal bacon, or over-salted bacon, or sandwiches that just stick bacon on things because they ran out of ideas.
But the bacon on Jake Taylor’s BLT sandwich is an entirely different beast. It’s extra thick and really tasty without being salty.
“It’s made in house and seven-day cured with each individually bagged with spices so we can get consistency in the spicing,” said Taylor who clearly takes bacon as seriously as I do. “We do 120 pounds a week. Then in the individual bags it’s aged, dried for 24 hours, then smoked on-site.”
Taylor is the chef and co-owner of the TuckShop Kitchen at Dupont and Dundas West near the Junction.
I convince him to give me another mini-sandwich so I can eat it in the name of journalistic integrity.
It is pretty great. It wins my sandwich of the day award, though it’s so hard to choose, like picking your favourite child.
Mick Sweetman, usually my editor but today my photographer and fellow sandwich eater, has a different opinion.
“Grilled cheese. Hands down.”
The grilled cheese sandwiches are indeed amazing. With some seriously good cheese, the crew at the Stuff’d Grilled Cheese and Tots booth (usually located at 707 Dundas St. West) is sweating over the hot grill as they work hard assembling the sandwiches, and grilling them perfectly.
A classic cheese-only sandwich is available or options paired with veggies and ground beef for a “cheeseburger sandwich.”
Ilana Awronski, was one of the organizers for the festival. I told her it didn’t feel like a student-organized event.
“That was our goal” she laughed.
Awronski is already a professional in the food field having worked for many years in the industry before taking the events management program.
“I wanted to fuse food and events,” she said. “I realized there’s never been a sandwich festival before and that seemed like a great injustice.”
Of course, a sandwich selection is incomplete without pulled pork (well, except for people who don’t eat pork). Sul Irmaos Smokehouse was serving up sliders that combined the rich tradition of Portuguese pork with southern BBQ.
Sul Irma’s has a location in Brampton but also has a food truck which can be found around Toronto. I discussed Portuguese food with Martiza Hernandez, who was co-staffing the booth.
She explained the the Azores islands, off the coast of Portugal, “do a lot of earthy flavours, a lot of flames a lot of meat and seafood. A lot of smoking. That’s where we get the influence of both.”
Brad, a Portuguese guy from Brampton who is attending the sandwich fest, excitedly joined our conversation as he chowed down. He was stoked to find out that Sul Irma’s has a location there.
“Downtown is where you get that Portuguese experience and then you spread out from there” he said, clearly happy in both worlds.
Are arepas a sandwich? There’s been a lot of debate recently about what constitutes a sandwich, but The Arepa Republic were at the sandwich festival, so clearly they must be one. You can often find their food truck serving up their Venezuelan fare at various locations in Toronto, be sure to check the schedule on their website.
The sandwich festival was a friendly and intimate experience. It’s funny because you wouldn’t think that a love of sandwiches would be enough to spark conversation and a community feeling but it totally was.
There were also events like a sandwich-eating contest. It was really entertaining because it was clear that these are not professional eating competition people, just regular folks eating some sandwiches.
In the qualifying rounds the competitors were still hungry—for victory—but they clearly struggled with finding their appetite in the final round. A guy named Dave came out on top.
I asked him how it felt to be a sandwich-eating champion.