We Grill – Charlie Gilpin
Charlie Gilpin is the owner of Project Sandwich; an award-winning London-based street food company whose goal is to take classic sandwiches from across the globe and shake them up to create something exceptional. On the back of this success, Take Stock caught up with him again to see how he is now tackling the early crowd with Breakfast at Charlie’s.
What’s happening with Project Sandwich?
Project Sandwich has now moved from its regular lunchtime pitch at West India Quays, the Gherkin and London Bridge markets to focus on brewery pop ups and private events and we are looking for a more permanent site for the company.
What’s trending in sandwiches?
Mexican has been on-trend for a long time and shows no signs of slowing down. Tacos in particular are very popular, so we created an interpretation of the classic authentic Tacos al Pastor (Mexican-style pork tacos) and call it Torta Al Pastor. We use pork belly with pineapple salsa but serve it on a sub roll, so it’s a sandwich. Asian and Vietnamese have a strong presence too. Having decided to stay away from steak sandwiches for a long time, we finally created a twist on the classic, Vietnamese style. Our steak is marinated in soy sauce, ginger and garlic, and served with sesame pickled carrots, crispy onions and roasted garlic mayo – it’s very popular!
What is your best seller?
Our Cuban sandwich the El Jefe is our signature dish. It contains free-range pork shoulder with smoked ham, Swiss cheese, salsa mojo (a minty, citrusy salsa verde), chipotle mayo and thick cut gherkins served on a hybrid, which is between a sub and a baguette.
What top sandwiches should outlets serve during British Sandwich Week (19-26 May)?
I think they should celebrate the classics with a bit of creative flair. Ramping up a BLT with slow roasted pork belly and spiced tomato chutney works well. Or, a Reuben without the pastrami. Try smoked mackerel with sauerkraut and Russian dressing on rye. And you can never go wrong with a good grilled cheese sandwich. You need the best cheese you can get, the best sourdough you can get, and then grilled in the best butter you can get.
Why should outlets invest in their sandwich menu?
Sandwiches are no longer just a takeaway option. On the go is still a massive market and of course sandwiches play a huge part in this, however, nowadays sandwiches are a main dish too. Chefs are putting as much care and passion into their sandwiches as they do with their main dishes. A sandwich is a simple dish that can be made into a complex one if you so wish, and that’s why I love them so much! You can experience a sandwich that’s just as amazing as a curry or roast dinner, and when done well (and properly) a sandwich can earn you just as much respect as any other dish on your menu.
What’s the secret to a good sandwich?
Pickles. Everyone needs them in their life! From gherkins to pink onions, pickled carrot and kimchi they give a sandwich an amazing crunch which will contrast with any protein filler. Also it’s one ingredient that will satisfy salty, sweet and savoury all at the same time.
What’s the future for sandwiches?
Sandwiches (especially in London) are now being treated with the respect they deserve. Thanks to the skill and variety of breads and hearty, interesting fillings, the perspective of a sandwich has changed. They have come into their own and are finally being seen as far more than just a pre-packaged, grab and go lunch but an acceptable meal to choose as a main when eating out. There is nothing better than enjoying a hearty sandwich and chips washed down with a pint of beer on a Friday evening – pure bliss! To be honest anything served between two slices of bread is a sandwich. So in that respect, the choice of sandwiches is endless!
What are your future plans?
Breakfast is big business at the moment so we have branched out into the breakfast and brunch arena with our Breakfast at Charlie’s. My vision is to make the breakfast occasion more of an event than a necessity. In other words, I want customers to come and eat breakfast, or brunch, in the same way they’d go out for dinner in the evening. I want to offer a three or four course menu – the same way you’d have one for an evening meal. The idea would be that the starter is something like smashed avocado tostadas, interesting mains like Shakshuka or Huevos Ranchers – and you can still get waffles for dessert! My aim is to make the meal a main eating-out occasion and treat; like a Sunday lunch or brunch where you take your time and indulge.