Dan Kish is Panera Bread’s head chef and chief sandwich architect. Here are the seven basic sandwich-making rules he follows when creating a new sandwich for our bakery-cafes (or for his kids on weekends):
- Start with great bread: According to Dan, the bread should be the inspiration for the filling, not vice versa. “Bread isn’t just the carrier for getting things into your mouth,” he says, “it’s the leading principle.”
- Slice it right: Denser breads, such as Whole Grain, should be cut to no more than 5/8 inch. More tender breads, such as our Tomato Basil, should be sliced thicker (¾ inch). This ensures a happy marriage of bread and ingredients, plus you’ll make a sandwich that won’t fall apart.
- Keep it simple: “Keep the number of ingredients low (most of Panera Bread’s sandwiches contain only about a half dozen) but make sure they’re of the highest quality,” says Dan. Too many sandwiches are impressive to the eye but not to the palate. Here’s another way to look at it: The average mouth should be able to get all the elements in one bite. “Stay away from the Dagwood effect,” he adds.
- Use a thin veneer of spread: Whether its mayo, mustard, or something special, spread it uniformly and completely across the surface of the bread. Every bite should feature its flavor.
- Include an element of freshness: You’ll find this in all of Panera Bread’s sandwiches - a slice of ripe tomato, a sprinkling of fresh herbs, some crunchy lettuce, or a bit of raw onion on a hot sandwich. “A fresh pop makes the difference between a good sandwich and a great one,” says Dan.
- Cut it carefully: Lots of promising sandwiches are ruined in the final stage by a dull knife. “Use a serrated knife and let its weight do the work,” says Dan. “Use a long sawing motion like you’re carving a turkey.”
- Eat it now: With all due respect to moms everywhere and their valiant attempts to pack a respectable brown-bag lunch, sandwiches should be eaten within a couple hours of construction. You can extend their life by not putting tomatoes or spreads on the bread, but generally speaking, sandwiches are best when consumed immediately.
And there you have it. For examples of these sandwich making rules in action, just stop by your neighborhood Panera Bread bakery-cafe.