Since winning season seven of Food Network Star in 2011, Chicago native Jeff Mauro has established himself as one of Food Network’s hottest properties, earning a Daytime Emmy nomination for his cooking show Sandwich King and co-hosting The Kitchen with Geoffrey Zakarian, Sunny Anderson, Katie Lee, and Marcela Valladolid. On top of all this, he’s also just launched his very own line of sauces, called Pork & Mindy’s. He’s also a certified authority on all things sandwich.
While working on our just-released ranking of the 35 best sandwich shops in America, we caught up with Mauro and had the chance to ask him some of our most pressing sandwich-related questions. Here’s what he had to say.
The Daily Meal: What, in your opinion, is the definition of the perfect sandwich?
Jeff Mauro: Several things, starting with ratios. There must be proper meat-to-cheese-to-bread ratio. One element should not outshine the other. They must all work in harmony to showcase each unique flavor and texture. Also, don’t overdo it; keep it simple. Three to four ingredients, max.
What are the telltale signs of a great sandwich shop?
A line outside the door, or packed seats. Also, a limited menu selection. I find the less clutter on the menu, the better the food.
What sets Chicago sandwich shops apart from the rest of the country?
In most neighborhoods, you can throw a rock and hit several Italian delis, beef stands, hot dog joints, and/or high-end, artisanal sandwich shops.
Why do you think sandwiches have such a universal appeal?
Every culture and country has its own version. It’s the quintessential grab-and-go food, and it’s now enjoying a renaissance.
In delis, many sandwich makers automatically assume that all customers want lettuce and tomatoes on their sandwich, while some people think that many a great sandwich has been ruined by the automatic addition of lettuce and tomato. Where do you stand on the subject?
Lettuce and tomato has its place (mainly on a BLT or turkey club). There really are no set rules, and that’s the beauty of sandwich creation: The possibilities and combinations are endless! If your main protein warrants some lettuce and tomato, and it doesn’t detract from the bite-down, then by all means, put it on. But don’t just put it on because society says so, man.