At the Délifrance Sandwich World Cup, British beef went head to head with Thai chicken, while Japanese seaweed saw off Swiss Emmenthal.
But the competition did not stop there. Swordfish also competed with mangoes - in the same sandwich! And the Netherlands candidate perfected the art of one-upmanship when she announced that she bred her own buffalo to make her own mozzarella.
The result was entertaining - but serious too. Seven countries competed in a live theatre, packed to the rafters, with standing room only. Video projectionists and TV crews jostled to get best angles on the often quivering hands of each contestant. One by one, the seven finalists followed each other out for their 15 minutes of fame, making their sandwiches, explaining their choice of fillings and answering questions from the judges. They were told to "explain the nutritional balance" or "describe why your combination of fillings work".
BBC TV South flew in its own correspondent and cameraman to film local Reading entrant Adrian Brown, who, though not the ultimate winner, won much praise from the judges, particularly the Dutch judge, who took a very large bite out of his British beef sandwich and pronounced it "perfect". It was served in a Délifrance Fougassette roll, spread with horseradish mixed with crème fraiche "to tone the spice down a bit", according to Brown.
The sandwich was then filled with rocket and an onion maramalade - made to a secret recipe, which I later coaxed out of him. He revealed - exclusively to British Baker - that it comprised white onions, white wine, lime, ginger and a tiny touch of sugar!
Standing at a large table with all their ingredients, plus chin-strap microphones and trailing wires, each finalist had to describe to the audience and judges the sandwich he or she was about to make. They could use any one of the multitude of Délifrance breads or rolls, while the filling had to be entirely their own recipe. British judge, sandwich consultant Nellie Nichols, told British Baker the judging criteria:
Ease of assembly
Ease of eating
The judges, one each from the seven finalists’ countries, had to stand down from judging their own national entry. Chairman of the panel was renowned French baker Jean-Luc Poujauran, who began with a small shop in Paris and now has several Michelin-starred restaurants among the clientele he supplies.
His passion is still making bread daily and he stresses the importance of time taken for kneading and fermentation.
The sandwich made by Philip Koh from Singapore was a clear winner. The judges thought it appealed to more adventurous and yet popular tastes. French judge Audrey Aveaux, a qualified nutritionist who has worked for hospitals and food and catering companies, thought it was particularly well balanced.
The judges, who ranged from chefs to shop owners, bakers to caterers, the nutritionist and Britain’s own sandwich writer and consultant Nellie Nichols, allowed up to E2 (around £1.20) to be spent on each sandwich.
This is the sixth year that French bakery and patisserie manufacturer Délifrance has organised the competition. Ian Dobbie, MD of Délifrance UK, which supplies both foodservice and retail outlets explained that all the company’s breads are fermented for a minimum of two hours to develop flavour and are natural - they contain no emulsifiers. The company makes numerous varieties of bread and there is a continuous drive towards new product development.
Dobbie told British Baker: "Adrian did his country proud. Bakers, caterers and chefs work with us to push the boundaries and develop new ideas. Innovation, passion and an understanding of how bread can bring out the best of a chosen filling is what will drive the growth of the sandwich market." n
=== The sandwich entries from around the world ===
As well as Britain they came from:
Belgium: a Pain Bagnat (round, flat crusty roll made with olive oil) spread with a balsamic vinegar and cream spread, filled with feta cheese, black olives, red peppers, lamb, rocket and Batavia lettuce
France: a Panecillo (crusty baguette) split twice, containing a light nori seaweed spread, plus avocado, sardines, feta cheese, pepper, tapenade (crushed olives, capers, anchovies and olive oil) and rocket shoots
Italy: Panisun bread, spread with butter and filled with mango, lettuce, swordfish, tomatoes, Philadelphia cheese, lime juice and aloe vera juice
Netherlands: a Rustic baguette, spread with
mustard and honey, filled with tapenade, smoked home-reared buffalo mozzarella cheese, prosciutto, lettuce, beef, carrots and parsley
Switzerland: a Rustic half baguette, spread with mayonnaise and filled with prawns apple, tomatoes, onion, yellow peppers, Emmental cheese, coriander leaves, parsley and lettuce
Britain: a Fougassette bread, spread with crème fraiche and horseradish, filled with beef (hot or cold), rocket and own-recipe onion marmalade
Singapore: the winner, a Provencette Bread (made with Provence herbs and olive oil), spread with mayonnaise and filled with chicken, tomatoes, coriander leaves, lettuce, red grapes and parmesan shavings, finished with a light chilli Thai dressing