I had the pleasure of meeting an amazing and inspiring guy named Jay Wolman. I came across this little hole-in-the-wall (aka the BEST kind of places) place in Chinatown this past week. Cheeky Sandwiches is the place to try when you are in the area. From Chicken Fried Buttermilk biscuits to even something for all those vegans!
I was greeted by Jay, he asked me what I'd like and I said I have no clue, make me your favorite! If there is one thing I have learned from my older brother Hunter (chef in the family) is to always try EVERYTHING. No matter if it may look weird or sound crazy, one must try everything. If you are going to a new brunch place down the street or dinner with friends get what the restaurant is known for. I would never go to a burger place and order a salad or chicken...they are known for their burger so try that first! Anyways I thought Jay was a pretty cool guy..not to mention his beard is top notch;) I hope you enjoy a little face to face with a full blooded Texan.
23 years old
Cook at Cheeky Sandwiches
How long have you worked at cheekys? What drew you into the place? I've been working at Cheeky's for about a year now. I remember having a "woah" moment the first time I went in there as it immediately reminded me of home in the South, and this was a rare gem in the big city. I knew I wanted to be involved in a place like that.
Cheeky's definitely plays with different ingredients when building a biscuit. What do you think cheeky's offers that other places may not? Cheeky's isn't a normal sandwich shop. We take the flavors and culture of the South and New Orleans in particular and apply it to our daily work. Our food is simple and straightforward, and the shop itself just feels cool and cozy. Its weird working in a small kitchen generally alone. You're a baker, head chef, dish washer, and waiter all at once, and theres definitely something special about that. I just love the freedom and unique individuality of this place, we are small and keep it that way. Our customers become friends, our team are a band of brothers, and honestly where else can you eat fried chicken while listening to crunk Southern rap music in New York. That's why I love this place.
How long have you been cooking? I've always been into cooking, but I started taking it seriously about 3 years ago. I'm completely self taught, with inspirations from a couple important people.
Who or what has most influenced your path toward becoming a chef ? Firstly my mom, always a great cook who taught me the importance of ingredients and the joy of food. My Caribbean nanny from my childhood; Violet inspires me to this day, as I love the flavors from her native region. We also used to celebrate holidays with her and buckets of fried chicken which left a big imprint on me. Din Yates who owns Cheekys has become a big inspiration for me mainly just by watching his insane work flow and contributions to this shop. He's a workhorse and he spills his personality into his restaurant. It's infectious and you can't help but not be driven by and to it.
If you weren't a chef what else would you love to pursue ? If I wasn't cooking I don't know what else I'd be doing really. I feel like I finally found something I'm good at and don't get bored with. To actually answer you though, I like working with my hands, so maybe some wood work or building things. Manly old world shit, you know.
What has been the most surprising thing that cooking has shown you? Cooking teaches you a lot about yourself, it pushes you and challenges you in ways that you can't expect. It's taught me to stay innovative and thinking on my feet, but most of all how to multitask on a grand scale. There's always work to be done or food to be prepped. It's a labor of love.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? 5 years seems like a long time but it goes fast when you work 70 hours a week. The goal is to have my own restaurant, bringing the flavors and greatness of Texas to a new region on this map. I want people to enjoy the goodness I keep boggled up in my mind. It's eventually gotta come to life, and my own place seems like a damn good start.
35 Orchard St New York, NY 10002
Also check out his food blog below! I promise it will have your mouth watering in seconds!
Thank you again Jay,