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Make Me A Sandwich: Chef Jonas Favela

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I Ate Oklahoma is brought to you in part by:

Here’s the thing: Sandwiches are great and you know it. They can be hot or cold, full of meat or fully vegan, extremely fancy or super basic, and a million other things in-between.

They are easy to make and deceptively difficult to master. Think of all the lunch meat and sandwich bread you’ve consumed, maybe with a square of American cheese or with a couple slices of Roma tomato waiting to pop out onto your shirt.

We deserve better sandwiches, so we’re asking some of the best chefs in the state to make us a sandwich and share the little things they do to transform this humble DIY meal into a gourmet delicacy.

Who is Chef Jonas Favela?

It's this dreamboat.

IAO: Where did you grow up?

Favela: I grew up in a combination of places. Growing up as a kid, that was in Moore, Oklahoma and a little bit in Oklahoma City. But seventh and eighth grade, where you're growing up and deciding when you’re going to be in trouble, from eighth to eleventh grade I grew up in Las Vegas. My dad was a blackjack dealer at The Mirage. The guys he hung around with, those guys gave away free comps to fancy restaurants as part of their jobs. So I got to try a lot of great food. This was in the mid-'80s, before all the superstar chefs came in. It made me really want to become a chef.

IAO: What’s your first sandwich memory?

Favela: When I was about five years old, at Lake Tahoe with my dad. A homestyle tuna melt. We're talking tuna salad, toasted bread with melted cheese. That’s why I have big love for the McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. Typically, as a chef, there’s one thing I’ll never do. That's pairing dairy with fish. All other fish, I won't put cheese on it. But I have a soft spot for the Filet-O-Fish.

IAO: What’s the best sandwich you’ve had that you didn’t make?

Favela: I’m a sandwich person. I’ll go places and look for all kinds of sandwiches. But the best sandwich was probably at this place, maybe it's not even there anymore, called the Avanti Deli in Las Vegas. I think it was probably frequented by mobsters. We used to go there, my brother and I, and he’d get a turkey sandwich and I’d get a ham sandwich. We’re both really picky. We'd always get it different from how it was on the menu.

So I ordered my ham sandwich, just ham, cheese, lettuce, and bread, and the guy behind the counter told me, "We're going to put tomatoes on it."

And I told him, no, but then he said, "No, you're gonna go ahead and have tomatoes on it" and I realized I was gonna eat it his way.

It was your typical, straight-up ham. The bread was fresh, and there was ham, I think the cheese was provolone, tomatoes, and lettuce.

Favela's CCV (culinary curriculum vitae)

The Metro (back in the day).

Deep Fork Chophouse (different logo, straight from Portabello's to Deep Fork, before it was Deep Fork Grill).

Terra Luna (with Cally Johnson).

From there I went to Cheever's Cafe. That was my first head chef position.

I moved on, got a job at the OKC Golf and Country Club as chef de cuisine, before any of the renovations.

After that, I worked for Chip Sears at the Chef’s Kitchen.

I worked at Iguana when Jack of Panama Jack's bought it.

I got a job at an assisted-living center when my ex-wife was pregnant, so I could spend more time with her in the evenings.

Cascata in Edmond.

The Ranch

The Metro again, but this time as executive chef.

Boulevard Steakhouse.

Flint.

Union Wood-Fired Grill.

His next venture, one of them at least, will be Graffiti OKC—part of the incoming Parlor food hall. Look for it this fall.

Get to the sandwich already

Okay, okay. Yeesh.

Sandwich name: You know what? I've never been one to give my food names. It is what is. This is a classic chicken and bacon sandwich.

Ingredients: Sourdough baguette, dijon mustard, sweet chili glaze, skin-on chicken breast, thick-cut bacon, bib lettuce, thick-cut tomatoes.

Tell me more! I love the toasted sourdough baguette here. It just makes a perfect sandwich. The dijon mustard and the sweet chili glaze play off each other. You get some umami and a little Asian flavor from the chili and it mixes really well with dijon, I think.

The skin-on chicken breast was an airline breast, but I cut off the wing. The bacon is Nueske's thick-cut.

Tips from the chef

This is going to sound basic, but no shortcuts. I pan-seared the chicken with the skin on. I seasoned everything with salt, layering it throughout the sandwich. I didn't put pepper on the skin side of the chicken. You put it on the backside, but not the skin, because you don't want it to burn while the skin is crisping up.

Slice the tomatoes wide and season with salt. With the bacon, I want it cooked where the fat get melty. It's loose, is the term I'd use. Not crispy, but bendy.

No need to pound on the breast unless you get one of those Chernobyl breasts. Like, it's way too big, like the chicken was raised near Chernobyl.

About the Author

Founder and Eater-in-Chief of I Ate Oklahoma, Greg Elwell has been reviewing restaurants and writing about Oklahoma’s food culture for more than a decade. Where a normal person orders one meal, this guy gets three. He is almost certainly going to die young and those who love him most are fairly ambivalent about it. You can email Greg at greg@iateoklahoma.com.

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