• ads

Bayou Eats | Staple Sandwich Co.

By Nathan Coker
In Bayou Eats
Sep 1st, 2023
0 Comments
783 Views

article by Vanelis Rivera
photography by Kelly Moore Clark

In 2018, Desi Bourgeois opened two unique food trucks in historic downtown Ruston. Grown and Grazed, which features a menu of dishes made from locally sourced produce and meats, and Yolo Nitro, an “ice dreamery” making creative, liquid nitrogen ice cream blends. Since then, the food park grew from three food trucks to six, all offering unique and savory foods made to order. Unfortunately, with the spike in nitrogen prices and pandemic-induced supply chain issues, Yolo Nitro shut down its candied operation. But as the old adage goes, when one food truck door closes, another opens; at least, that was what Zach Webb believed. Webb had been following in the culinary footsteps of his stepfather, Bourgeois, for a few years, so naturally Bourgeois turned to him for ideas on transitioning the ice cream operation into something feasible but with staying power. Three years in, Staple Sandwich Co. has proven that sandwiches never go out of style, especially when the bread is made from scratch!

Originally from Lafourche Parish, Bourgeois’ ties to Ruston come by way of Louisiana Tech University where he was originally studying architecture. During that time, he sharpened his culinary chops at Trenton Street Cafe. Realizing his natural talent and growing interest in the kitchen, he left architecture to attend the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont. Post-grad, his career was a whirlwind of fine dining and catering experiences. By the time he returned to Ruston, he was ready to make things happen. Inspired by his stepfather, Webb turned to Bourgeois when considering attending culinary school. Knowing the throws of the high-intensity career, Bourgeois had him work alongside his team. Webb was hooked and ended up attending Bourgeois’ alma mater. “It was nice to get out of the South and see another part of the country,” says Webb, who ended up working at the famed Gramercy Tavern in New York City for a couple of years. From there, he moved on to Maine, where he learned to make focaccia bread sandwiches. His last move before the pandemic was to Austin, Texas where he helped run a catering company. When that “crashed and burned,” he decided to return to Ruston and rejoin Bourgeois’ operation, which is when he was asked to brainstorm another direction for the empty food truck. “We wanted to create an opportunity that didn’t require us to spend a lot of money to transition from an ice cream scenario to something else,” says Bourgeois. Keeping in consideration that the space did not have a hood system, they readily embraced the sandwich direction. “We could flip this easily,” says Bourgeois, explaining that all that was needed to complete their vision was to grab a slicer, countertop panini press, and remove the ice cream equipment. Recipe tasting began around October, and a few weeks later they were established.

Webb thoroughly tackled the menu, starting, of course, with the focaccia bread, perhaps one of the most important components made in their kitchen. “Nobody’s doing it, so it made sense for us to lean in and do that,” says Bourgeois, who relied on Webb’s baking skills to expedite the operation. “We tried probably four or five solid recipes that we baked over and over and over again, and we finally resolved ourselves to make our own Italian mix,” says Bourgeois who buys the raw ingredients for the specially ratioed blend. Baked daily and toasted golden on their panini press, start your sandwich journey with “the best muffuletta north of I-10,” made with a housemade olive mix, mortadella, ham, salami, mozzarella, and provolone. Another familiar sandwich is the Italian Turkey Club, another savory option made with aioli, turkey, pancetta, provolone, fresh greens, and tomato. Initially, the pair wanted to keep with a “pseudo-Italian sandwich scenario,” as Bourgeois calls it. However, Webb tends to create dishes to the beat of his own food cravings. Drawn to some pulled pork made for a Grown and Grazed special, he approached Bourgeois with the off-genre idea of a Cuban sandwich. At first, Bourgeois was skeptical, unsure of how well it would match up to their “Italian superstars,” but he fully supported the idea. Now, the Cuban is their most popular seller—chili braised pulled pork, ham, mustard, housemade pickles, and Swiss cheese. Another spontaneous favorite is the Caprese, a vegetarian sandwich made with housemade pecan pesto and preserved lemons, mozzarella, fresh greens, and tomato. “I’d say it’s our signature sandwich,” says Webb whose pecan pesto is a welcome twist on the classic. Bourgeois adds, “It’s a flavor bomb. It’s a flavor I don’t think most people see anywhere else.” He emphasizes the intense process of preserving the lemons. “We do a minimum of two to three weeks of preserve on it,” says Webb, who likes to keep ahead of all his prep work. 

Like most of their ingredients, the preserved lemons are multipurpose and also shine in the Mediterranean Pasta Salad, a refreshing mix of spiral pasta, preserved lemon, cucumbers, red onion, olive mix, parsley with aioli, and lemon juice. Though listed as a side dish, it stands alone with some customers buying it by the quart. In fact, sometimes Bourgeois takes some home and adds any readily available protein like chicken. Two other sides are available for giving your sandwich selection some extra oomph. The Spicy Chickpea Salad (chickpeas, green onion, red onion, parsley, chili peppers, lemon juice, and honey) and a South Louisiana-style Potato Salad, the kind that Bourgeois grew up with (Yukon Gold potatoes, green onions, red onions, pickle juice, parsley, tossed with may and mustard). For a hardier side, opt for their soup specials, often made from regionally sourced ingredients. When they’re not getting veggies from Estes Farm, Gibson’s Fresh Grocer provides some of their organic products. The soup combinations range from brothy to creamy to hearty. Their most recent special, the Coconut Carrot Soup, features all-natural ingredients and is vegan, dairy-free, and gluten-free. Another crowd-pleaser is their Peri Peri Chicken Soup, a medley of carrots, mushrooms, cabbage, onion, garlic, and ginger. All of their soups can also be bought by the quart. 

Clearly, it’s easy to linger on the savory side of the menu, but at this meal on wheels, you won’t want to sleep on Ruston’s favorite cookies. These thick, chewy delights are almost a full meal. And with close to 1000 cookies a month flying off their display shelf, you’ll want to grab a gallon of milk and take a few back to your home. Their staple cookies are chocolate chip, cane syrup pecan, lemon, and red velvet. But every month expect a special flavor based on the season or Webb’s whimsy. Some of their summer-inspired cookies have included lime coconut, oatmeal rum raisin, peach, and cinnamon toffee. “We used to do sweet potato ice cream with candied pecans and marshmallows, so we’ve just kept rolling with those flavors,” says Bourgois who is a big proponent of reincorporating flavors from past menus. 

Ultimately, Bourgeois credits Webb’s talent, skill, and consistency with the food truck’s success. “We’re fortunate to have him,” he says. “The whole goal of this place was to be able to be nimble and be quick about changing things,” emphasizes Bourgois who takes pride in Webb’s ability to take an ice cream shop and flip it in just thirty days. Now, gracing the ample outdoor space of Heard Freighthouse Food Park stands a sandwich shop with an innovative menu, and a team dedicated to supporting other local businesses, as well as the growth of Ruston’s culinary offerings.