by RONA MANN

Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while or the light won’t come in.”…Isaac Asimov

Saybrook-soup-sandwich-ownersThis isn’t at all what it seems, so make sure you check your preconceived notions at the door, because you’re in for quite a surprise and quite a ride.

So let’s begin at the door. Etched on the glass is the phrase, “for the LOVE OF FOOD.” Note: it is not a typo. “for the” is in small case; “LOVE OF FOOD” is capitalized because it’s not just an entrance to their world, but a strong sentiment that serves as their very mantra. “They” are Chef David Saunders and Sous Chef Alexander Leigh, and their place is Saybrook Soup and Sandwich Co.

Now before you let those preconceived ideas creep in about fast food sandwich shops, let us disabuse you of the notion that this is but another place where you can grab a quick something between the breads and a cup of soup. Saybrook Soup & Sandwich has not only broken the mold, but cast a brand new one, because these gentlemen are culinary experts, with rich backgrounds in fine food and catering…their art forming the cornerstone of their business.

Saunders was raised in Old Lyme, but earned his chops everywhere from St. Petersburg and Naples, Florida to Northern California, Virginia, and by catering over 4000 events for anywhere from 6 to 3800 people! Although he has had some of the best mentors and teachers in the industry, David firmly believes “to achieve your ultimate goals, you yourself must become your best teacher.”

Alex Leigh was formally trained at Connecticut Culinary Institute, working shoulder to shoulder with the best chefs in the business. He has been a personal chef in Newport, Rhode Island; worked at Union League Cafe, at Craftsteak, and amassed a host of awards and medals for his skills in culinary art.

So why would two men with these formal fine dining backgrounds want to open a soup and sandwich business? To prove that casual food doesn’t have to be boring food. “I wanted to bring the sandwich back to the people…to elevate it,” Saunders says. And elevate it he has! With a choice of daily fresh breads baked “just seven miles away; not from food service,” the chef fills it with popular ingredients and unique twists.”We cook all our meats onsite,” David says. “We have a smoker, a rotisserie, a char grill, and two ovens,” so you’re not getting pre-sliced turkey from a package.” Indeed Saunders’ smoked turkey, spread with goat cheese, baby spinach, sun dried tomato, and harissa paste, is one of the most popular selections on the menu along with a black angus rotisserie meatloaf that, according to Chef Alex, “is gluten free with no breadcrumbs or eggs used as fillers.” The meatloaf may be ordered as a dinner or between those freshly baked breads, finished with a spread of smoked bacon blackened tomato puree that is not only delicious, but unique.

“Each sandwich has its own individual spread,” Saunders informs, “but we custom design every sandwich, so if there’s something special someone wants or needs to have omitted, we are happy to honor their request.”

Soups are created fresh daily on site, crafted with the freshest of local ingredients. “We have a set selection of six,” Alex says, “and always a different soup of the day.” To add to the memorable taste of their concoctions, the men boast they grew their own herb garden on the premises, adding that special something and a fresh take to every soup that is created.

The customers, most of whom Saunders and Leigh know by first name, especially enjoy the free lunch delivery service available at Saybrook Soup & Sandwich Co. Place an order by 10AM and choose your delivery time. Need a platter for that all-important meeting? “We can do sandwich platters and dessert platters of caramel almond cheesecake cones, key lime pie, apple crisp, Oreo bars…they are just beautiful,” effuses Saunders.

Want to bust some more of those preconceived notions and challenge those assumptions? Then how about considering the creations of Chefs Saunders and Leigh for your next wedding, rehearsal dinner, special party, theme party, corporate event, backyard event, or formal affair? Their catering division, Saybrook Catering Co., is exploding in popularity among those who are looking for extraordinary cuisine with those unique touches of culinary genius that only these two chefs can provide. “People have to get over that their wedding is being catered by a soup and sandwich shop,” says David. “Their wedding or special event will be catered by two professionally trained chefs who can custom design a menu that will perfectly fit their taste, their budget, and  their event. We will go anywhere, and do not offer the typical. No four choices of starch, five choices of meat, package A or B. Our website shows the versatility we have and the special touches we afford. Then it’s up to the client to choose what they want, and we’ll design the menu for them.”

There’s no question about it. Saunders and Leigh are highly trained, experienced professionals who are unabashed about their ongoing love affair with food…making it look good, taste good, and being the signature of any special event.

Ask the two chefs what’s new in food, and David readily has an answer. “What’s new is what’s in our minds. New thoughts, new ways of creating delicious dishes, not the same old way of preparing food. We like to be able to create for people. That’s what the LOVE OF FOOD is all about.”

Beginning their fifth year in business and gaining customers, notoriety, and kudos as they go, it would be easy to think of bigger plans, expansion, new locations, growth. However  Alex is quick to dispel any thoughts of becoming like franchise operations. “We may grow, but it’s still always going to be about getting the freshest ingredients from just around the corner and personally visiting the tables to make sure everyone is satisfied and happy. We will never change our vision.”

So…ready to let go of those assumptions and think outside the box?

Clearly these two chefs already have.

Saybrook Soup & Sandwich Co. is located at 745 Boston Post Road, Old Saybrook

(860) 395-3000   www.yummmey.com

Saybrook Catering Co. is found at www.saybrookcatering.com

(860) 819-1805
 

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