On the Line: Matt Meddock and Max Schlutz of Sessions Sandwiches, Part One
Let's be clear about this week's interview: Sessions is a sandwich RESTAURANT. Sure, sandwich is in the name. But between flatbreads, breakfast selections and salads, they are so much more. That's why it took two of the masterminds behind the coolest concept by the water to explain it all. Local boys who have their flavor profiles and customer service in check, Matt Meddock, Max Schlutz and I chill outside one afternoon to discuss our love of beer and excellent sandwich combinations. Oh, and the mayor walked by to order lunch.
Where does the name come from?
Matt Meddock: Sessions is a common slang term used in Southern California (i.e. I'm going for surf sessions, skate sessions, snowboard sessions, etc.)
What's the difference between an East coast deli and your West coast deli?
Max Schlutz: An East coast deli tends to celebrate quantity. Most feature menus that are 100 items long. I won't speak to them beyond that.
West coast deli represents simplicity in design, extensiveness in flavor profiles and health consciousness at its core. We are the place to refuel for the active person, the avid athlete and for those who appreciate attention to detail. Surf, skate or ski over to Sessions.
Favorite meal growing up:
Meddock: My mom was a great cook. I don't really have a specific favorite meal. If I were to pick something, I would say tacos.
Schlutz: Sunday BBQ helmed by my grandfather, the Grill Master-- 100% of my inspiration for my love of all things over an open flame, and the power of onion soup mix!
Best recent food find:
Meddock: The only thing I have eaten for the last six months is sandwiches. True story [Editor's note: Yes, he swears.]
Schultz: Harissa as a sandwich ingredient.
Max: UCI didn't have a hospitality program. How were you known for your kitchen skills?
Schlutz: I had my own catering company at 16 called Where's Max? Food was always a major part of my childhood, and I turned it into a profit center. When I graduated from college, I entered the California Culinary Academy, but dropped out on day one. I was too terrified of having to pay off the school loans working $6 an hour as a line cook. I entered the University of San Diego School of Law the next year.
Culinarily speaking, Orange County has the best:
Meddock: Variety. We live in a melting pot of cultures.
Schlutz: Potential. An emerging collection of talented, young chefs; an affluent and hungry audience that eats out more than it eats in; surrounded by local farms, oceans and artisan purveyors all make for a dynamic dining scene. For decades, people from Orange County would flock to Los Angeles for a memorable dining experience. Now, people from LA are penetrating the curtain. For every Little Sparrow, Playground or North Left, we have outstanding ramen shops, gourmet pizzerias and pho.
Most popular menu items:
Both: The Meddock Melee and Summer Zephyr.
What is your beverage of choice?
Meddock: My beverage of choice is Sculpin IPA, and I get it at Pavilions.
Schlutz: Pliny the Elder-- I get it from a small liquor store in San Pedro (Can't divulge the name for fear of them running out.) I also love an Allagash Curieux from Maine, which I sometimes cut with Well's Banana Bread. Both available at Hi-Times or Whole Foods.
Weirdest thing you've ever eaten:
Meddock: I thought baby octopus from Korean bbq was pretty weird.
Schlutz: Taco from Jack in the Box, anything from 7-11 or piranha ribs from Chapter One.
Your earliest food memory:
Meddock: My earliest memory of food is growing up at the beach and my mom's cooler full of food. I am one of three boys, and most of our days were spent in Balboa.
Schlutz: When I was really young, I used to love seared scallops and asparagus in puff pastry at Gemmel's Restaurant in Costa Mesa (currently Wahoo's on the corner of Bristol and Baker), and the hamburger with spinach and bacon from Le Biarritz (currently the Chicken Coop on Old Newport Boulevard).
You were recommended by our friend, Dean Kim of OC Baking Company. What breads of his do you utilize?
Schlutz: We use three delicious breads that perfectly pair with our ingredients: Oat covered squaw. Crisp, yet soft francese roll, that only gets more unctuous when toasted. Lastly, a beautiful 3-inch by 6-inch ciabatta that is light and airy, with more nooks and crannies than a Thomas' English Muffin.
Favorite places to eat:
Meddock: My favorite place to eat besides Sessions is anywhere that has a patio, good beer and usually chips and salsa.
Schlutz: Cinquant Cinq in St. Tropez, Zuni Cafe in San Francisco and Joe Beef in Montreal.
Where was your most recent meal?
Meddock: My most recent meal was at Sessions, and it was a sandwich.
Schlutz: Oak Grill. Clams with bacon and cherry tomatoes.
Best culinary tip for the home cook:
Schlutz: Since we also make gourmet salads at Sessions, two things for the home cook to pay attention to: Always season your greens with salt and pepper before you dress them. Great food is all about layering flavors, and this is step one. Step two is never dress your greens directly. Pour your dressing around the side of the salad bowl, and slowly bring your lettuce to the dressing as you toss gently. This allows you decide when you feel the greens have enough coating to them, as you transfer them to a plate. Greens should be moist and delicious, not limp and overdressed.
Weirdest customer request (and did you do it?):
Meddock: Pastrami with mozzarella and tomatoes. Yes, of course we did it. We'll do anything we can to make sure our customers get what they want.
Schlutz: A few years back, I was asked to help redevelop a Mexican-themed sports bar. On my first day there, a customer ordered nachos, no carne asada, substitute hot wings. And no, I did not.
One food you can't live without:
Meddock: I can't live without sandwiches because my family needs to eat.
Schlutz: Tortillas. I eat everything with my hands, and I despise utensils. Tortillas help me look less like a Neanderthal.
Sessions Sandwiches is located at 2823 Newport Blvd, Newport Beach, (949) 220-9001; www.sessionssandwiches.com.