West Point sandwich maker wins worldwide competition for 'Hot Hawaiian'

Courtesy photo Michael Woodburn prepares a “Hot Hawaiian” sandwich at Charleys Grilled Subs at...

Story by Amy K. Stewart
(Standard-Examiner correspondent)
Mon, Dec 31, 2012
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Sweet and spicy proved to be the perfect combination for Michael Woodburn, 44, of West Point, as he won in a worldwide sandwich competition this fall hosted by Charleys Grilled Subs. Woodburn works at the Charleys restaurant on Hill Air Force Base.

The sandwich is called the “Hot Hawaiian” and is made of chicken, bacon, onions, Swiss cheese, crushed pineapple and roasted pineapple habanero sauce.

“The habanero sauce complements the chicken really well. I played around with the sauce, just grilling chicken at home,” said Woodburn, who is the food court manager for the Army and Air Force Exchange Service at Hill Air Force Base.

Habanero sauce is made from chili peppers; the “roasted pineapple habanero sauce” Woodburn uses can be found ready-made in most grocery stores. 

“I thought it might work well in a sandwich,” Woodburn said. “The sandwich has a sweet flavor with the pineapple and spicy flavor with the habanero.”

Charleys plans to launch Woodburn’s Hot Hawaiian sandwich in August 2013 for a limited time only. It will be available for six to eight weeks at various franchises, including the sites at Hill Air Force Base, Layton Hills Mall, Sandy and Orem. The sandwich may have a different name when it is released.

“We are always looking for the next great offering,” said Mike Cassar, vice president of marketing for Charleys.

“This sandwich is really, really good. It has a lot of great flavor to it and good heat,” Cassar said. “The design of the sandwich brings all the flavors together. This sandwich shows a lot of promise.”

Team effort

Woodburn said he is excited to be dubbed top “Grillmaster” in the Charleys competition. He grills quite often in his backyard with his family.

“I like to try new things and see what kind of flavor combinations work,” he said. “And this was a fun competition with Charleys. Everyone had a good time with it.”

Woodburn represented his team at Charleys on Hill Air Force Base. “It was a team effort for us,” he said.

The team won a trophy and chef’s coats with the Charleys logo. Cash prizes included $200 for each of the three supervisors at Charleys and $100 for each of the seven crew members.

“The whole team here was excited to win and we’re looking forward to defending our championship next year,” Woodburn said, adding the crew is already thinking of sandwich ideas for the 2013 contest.

Charleys officials announced the contest in July, stating each Charleys franchise could enter two sandwich recipes. Employees at the Hill Air Force Base Charleys came up with sandwich ideas, then voted to choose their top four recipes. They then made the four sandwiches and everyone sampled them.

Woodburn’s was one of two sandwiches chosen. The other Hill winner was a mango jalapeno chicken sandwich created by crew member associate Dominique Luca, 18, of Roy. “His (Woodburn’s) was way good — really yummy,” Luca said. Her sandwich contains chicken, onion, mango jalapeno chutney, Swiss cheese, ranch dressing and lettuce.

Charleys flew Woodburn to the competition at Charleys corporate headquarters in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 24 to compete for the top three best sandwiches internationally.

“I was a little nervous. Judges and all the Charleys officials were there,” Woodburn said. “I usually like to keep a low profile — but it was a great opportunity and a great experience.”

A permanent option?

This is the first year Charleys has had the sandwich contest. The goal is to get involvement from franchise partners and to allow them to be part of the product development process, said Dick Falcone, director of research and development for Charleys.

Charleys officials went through 200 entries from the franchises, then narrowed it down to the final 10, the final five and then the final three.

“The roasted pineapple and habanero sauce just spoke flavor,” Falcone said. “And that’s what we really look for in a limited-time-only sandwich — the big bold flavor to get people really excited about eating it. It was just a great combination.”

After the “Hot Hawaiian’s” trial run, Charleys officials will review purchasing data to judge whether the sandwich recipe should be part of the ongoing menu. “The sandwich has to be really popular to do that,” Cassar said.

The decision is weighed by how many of the trial sandwiches are sold in comparison with regular menu items, such as the Philadelphia cheese steak sandwich, which is about 50 percent of the sandwiches sold.

“If the ‘Hot Hawaiian’ is consistently in the top three or four sandwiches ordered, we may consider keeping it,” Cassar said.

Charleys, founded in 1986, is based in Columbus, Ohio. Go to www.Charleys.com for more information.

 

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