2009/09/16

Tom Colicchio: 'wichcraft

By JULIETTE ROSSANT

'wichcraft cookbook, by Tom Colicchio Do you need a sandwich cookbook? Why not? If there are cookbooks just about milkshakes or burgers, why not sandwiches? Tom Colicchio's 'wichcraft (Clarkson Potter 2009) definitely takes its cue not from Tom's Top Chef (see Super Chef: Top Chef: Tom Colicchio) fame and his spreading empire of 'wichcraft eateries.

On the cover are various bits of information that are a bit confusing. Tom (of Top Chef) and Sisha Ortuzar have their names in the top right, but on the bottom left is also says text by Rhona Silverbush and photographs by Bill Bettencourt.(Could it be possible that Rhona is Tom's sister-in-law?) So, who is responsible for the book? Perhaps that ambiguity is the point. Who is responsible for 'wichcraft - the book and the restaurants? Tom himself, as the overriding imagination, but more directly his sous chef, Sisha, and as for the words, well, they are by Rhona. It's similar to any restaurant – the imagination is from the executive chef, but the chef de cuisine or the sous chef manages the actual day-to-day operations, and then line cooks execute the dishes.

If you subscribe to the belief that sandwiches should be made with the same care as food we sit down to for a lengthier meal, then this is the book for you. The message is: there is no point in going through to trouble of buying this book, getting inspired by a recipe, if you aren't also going to get top quality, organic or sustainable foods, excellent bread, and patiently put together a great sandwich.

Tom Colicchio, courtesy of Adrienne Arsht Center

Tom opens the book with 'wichcraft's menu, each sandwich photographed and labeled and divided up into breakfast, cool, warm, and finally sweet sandwiches. It's a handy guide to the book, but the photographs are again reproduced with each recipe and so it ends up being a bit like looking at a HoJo's menu. Then Tom dives in with the story of 'wichcraft and how he collaborated with Sisha. This is interesting, along with the dialogue between the two of them that follows, for those who want to know how an idea –any idea – gets developed. It's the kind of business story background that readers of Super Chef should enjoy.

The recipes are fun twists on classic sandwiches. Even the American PBJ (p. 39) gets homemade rhubarb jam and butter mixed into the peanut butter to smooth and mellow the flavor. For the Las Vegas 'wichcraft, the team invented their version of steak and eggs: Skirt Steak with Fried Egg, Oyster Mushroom, and Parsley Vinaigrette (p. 44). It is a glorious sandwich for the very hearty. That's balanced with a vegan sandwich, Chopped Chickpeas with Roasted Peppers, Black Olives, Lemon Confit, and Parsley (p. 59), the 'wichcraft take on Middle Eastern flavors.

There are also more luxurious sandwiches like Lobster with Sweet Potato-Fennel Slaw and Tarragon Vinaigrette (p. 72) perfect for a picnic at an outdoor classical music concert perhaps? Pair that with Beer-Braised Beef Short Ribs with Pickled Vegetables, Aged Cheddar, and Horseradish (p. 152) and you'd have a version of surf and turf.

'wichcraft is a fun book for summer entertaining ideas. As long as you can get top quality ingredients, elegance and taste is between two slices of bread.

Previous articles:
Top Chef Masters
Top Chef's Tom Colicchio Courts Sara Lee
Tom Colicchio: Top Chef 2
Top Chef 2: Already Casting
Top Chef: Tom Colicchio
Fast Company: Tom Colicchio's Dream Job
Tom Colicchio: a-Kickin' and a-Copin'
[Cookbook Reviews - complete]


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