How often does a scruffy guy open a funky neighborhood sandwich shop that becomes a coast-to-coast culinary sensation? Like never, that’s how often. Yet that’s exactly what transpired not long ago when Mason Hereford welcomed hungry New Orleanians to Turkey and the Wolf and its chefy, stoner-ific sammies loaded with catfish salad, chicken-fried steak and anchovy crème fraîche. Glowing reviews and best-new-restaurant accolades from Bon Appétit and Food & Wine followed, and still keep the joint hopping. Now Hereford channels his sandwich voodoo into a new cookbook, also titled Turkey and the Wolf, and shares some choice recipes with you. But first, a word with the man behind the sandwich sorcery.
How did you decide to focus your culinary skills on a sandwich shop?
I grew up in Virginia eating at a ton of sandwich places, and after I started cooking in New Orleans, found that po’boys and muffalettas dominate the local sandwich scene. So I started adding sandwiches to menus where I worked, and realized they’re an opportunity for culinary expression, with all the layering of flavors. A great sandwich is so much more than meat, cheese and bread.
What were your initial expectations for Turkey and the Wolf?
When we opened, if I could make a regular paycheck and we could have a lot of staff parties, that was enough. Then we got some attention, then lines started to form. The response far exceeded expectations, and frankly, we didn’t know what to do with ourselves.
You make some out-there sandwiches. What the process for creating a new winner?
The starting point is usually someone in the kitchen eating something else that got them really jazzed, like a bag of potato chips or a dish their grandma made. So we bounce ideas, tweak for a long time, come up with an esoteric flavor combo, and then maybe dial it back a bit.