Tom Colicchio Designed This New Sandwich And It's Seriously Delicious - Exclusive

Chef Tom Colicchio has a wide variety of passions and projects, and while you might know him as the head judge on TV's Top Chef or as one of the foremost restaurateurs in America, he has a special passion for helping people eat healthier. Colicchio helped establish Food Policy Action, a group dedicated to getting Americans healthier food options across the country, in addition to helping John Hancock create their HealthyFood program (via Cooking Light). This drive to get us eating better has inspired his latest collaboration with French's in order to create a sandwich that not only tastes great, but ditches the fat found in mayo for an excellent gourmet sandwich experience.

Mashed sat down with Tom Colicchio to get the scoop on what drove the collaboration, what ingredients and inspiration went into the sandwich, and why this topic sits near and dear to his heart.

"I grew up eating and using French's mustard," Colicchio said. "It was the preferred mustard in my house, and so when French's called and started talking about the collaboration, it was a pretty simple yes for me. And then of course, when they said that they wanted me to come up with a sandwich featuring the mustard, but not just something where it was a re-imagined Reuben sandwich or something, and we didn't want to just take the mustard and put it on the bread."

A collaboration built around healthy eating

When French's reached out to Colicchio, they discussed the details of what the MustSwitch collaboration should entail. According to Marketing Dive, French's wanted to highlight how we can use mustard to create a gourmet sandwich experience and imagined this promotion as a way to not only show off the ingredient, but also to get people out of their houses and to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Thanks to Colicchio's choice of ingredients, the sandwich hits some serious high notes while staying true to the health-conscious mission of the promotion.

"[We] actually went through a couple of different ideas [for the sandwich] and then we ended up landing on this braised flank steak," Colicchio said. "One of my favorite things to [put on a] sandwich is the Ropa Vieja, which is a Mexican dish where they braise a flank steak and then shred it. And so I thought, 'Well, okay — we can do the same thing, but using mustard instead of some of the cumin and other flavors that you associate that dish with. We'll just kind of braise it in stock and then mustard and some other spices, and get that part out of the way.'"

A sandwich that can make anyone love mustard

Colicchio took this central meat as the starting point of the sandwich and built upon it. "[The ropa vieja] worked really well, and I wanted to sort of add to it," Colicchio said. "You get that mustard kick and that high acid kick, and so from there, I wanted to add a few other elements... I wanted some sweetness, and so we got that from the golden raisins that we use in the marinade with the cauliflower. [We] get some crisp from the cauliflower because it's essentially raw, and then the sweetness from the golden raisins."

Chef Colicchio says they were "looking for some earthiness and the hen-of-the-wood mushrooms, that's one of our signatures at Craft, and so I figured we add that, and then arugula to get that little peppery crunch and some freshness to the dish as well." Colicchio continued, "and of course, some additional mustard on the bread, and then ciabatta. I wanted something that could stand up to all the ingredients, but still be soft enough up to take a good bite out of."

"For me, if you're going to make a sandwich... you still want balance, and so we always approach sandwich making the same way we'd approach composing a dish, where you want certain elements of acid and some sweetness, and maybe some richness or earthiness," Colicchio shared. "I find that a lot of sandwiches, you end up getting a few of those elements, but not all of them, so I think the combination of the cauliflower, the mushroom, and the braised mustard and the beef, I think works really, really well."

Ditch your mayo to score the sandwich

As part of the promotion, French's plans to host a pop-up at Colicchio's flagship restaurant, Craft NYC, where anyone interested in trying the sandwich can exchange a jar of mayonnaise for the sandwich, with all unopened donated mayo going to NYC food banks (via PR Newswire).

"We want to get people to eat healthy, and one way to do that is to sort of give up a little mayonnaise for some mustard," Colicchio said. "That's the whole idea, is that you turn in a jar of mayonnaise — you don't have to, but turn in a jar of mayonnaise, you get a sandwich. You can bring a packet of mayonnaise [or] you can promise to eat less mayonnaise, and then the cool thing is we're doing this all in my private dining room, which we just renovated right before COVID, so it's a really cool open kitchen and we're turning into the French's pop-up for the two days."

If you don't live close enough to Manhattan to grab this sandwich at the pop-up (which runs, from March 6 to 7, starting 11 a.m. and ending at 3 p.m.) no worries! According to McCormick, you can whip the sandwich up for yourself at home — but be prepared to work for it. The dish takes over three hours to make, and when you can simply trade in a packet of mayo for this gourmet meal, it might just be worth the trek to the Big Apple to grab it from its source.