Carew Duffy is the mastermind behind Sandwiches and Selfies, an entertaining — and mouth-watering — Instagram account wholly dedicated to his favourite foodstuff.
Growing up in Ottawa, Duffy, general manager of the Grove Pub & Restaurant (164 Stafford St.) and part-owner of the Black Bird Brasserie (300 Tache Ave.), rarely missed an episode of the CBC series Fred Penner’s Place, starring Juno Award-winner Fred Penner. Given that bit of information, imagine how excited he was this past January when a server at the Grove told him Penner, a person who also knows a thing or two about sandwiches thanks to his recording of the ditty Sandwiches (Are Beautiful), was "in da house." It gets better: because he’d been tipped off about Duffy’s Sandwiches and Selfies project, Penner had arrived there hoping to chat with Duffy in person.
"I came out of the back, trying to look all cool, at which point he came up to me and casually said, ‘I guess we’ll be doing a sandwich video today,’" says Duffy, who, besides posting daily shots of himself eating sammies here, there and everywhere, also uploads amusing, live-action clips from time to time, such as a recent vignette that showed him seated behind the wheel of his car, surrounded by more than 200 bagged loaves of rye bread. "Two or three months after starting my Instagram account, I mentioned to a friend how amazing it would be to meet Fred Penner because of the whole sandwich-song thing. Suddenly, there he was. My heart was just exploding."
A few days following their encounter, Duffy posted a video that shows him biting into a Reuben sandwich while a bemused-looking Penner asks if he plans to share it or not. Immediately his comments field blew up with messages along the lines of, "Carew, you had lunch with a fricking legend."
Duffy, 40, a married father of two, has two replies at the ready when asked why he started Sandwiches and Selfies in the first place. The "quick, pass-by" response is he bought a new phone in November 2017, used it to snap a photo of his lunch, a BLT and fries, then later thought to himself, people like taking selfies, people like eating sandwiches, why not have some fun by combining the two?
The long answer is a bit more poignant.
In 2016, Duffy’s family went through "a pretty bad loss," followed by a second tragedy just eight months later. Describing that period as "two winters of total sadness," Duffy attempted to inject some levity in his wife, son and daughter’s lives by taking them for a bite on weekends, at which time he would take gimmicky shots of himself eating a sandwich, mayo dripping down his chin, an antic that always seemed to put a smile on their faces.
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Doesn’t get any better! Sun, Sand and Spam. Now where did I put that sun screen? #beachdayeveryday #sunny • #sandwichesandselfies #sandwichlife #holidayseason #beachlife #maui #hi • @gisforglasses @akamaicoffee @cbc @misophatsushi @mauibrewingco @enjoythemauilife @kiheikalama @kiheicaffe @808hairsalon
"At the time I had no social media, nothing, but after approaching some of the younger people at work, they taught me how to set up an Instagram account to share what I was up to with friends and family," he explains, seated in a downtown diner. "In the beginning I had no following whatsoever. But after doing a bit of research, I learned the best way to solve that was to be consistent, to post everyday and to make it look like I was having fun."
Considering he’s been a "sandwich guy" for as long as he can remember — while a chicken club ranks as his No. 1 choice, he will settle for bologna in a pinch — that last part wasn’t particularly difficult, he admits.
His approach seems to be paying off. At last count, Sandwiches and Selfies had a tick over 13,000 followers, many of whom routinely leave messages along the lines of, "Stay hungry my friend," "YUM!" and "This is one of the best accounts ever invented!"
Sure, Duffy, who moved to Winnipeg nine years ago to be closer to his wife’s side of the family, has a few favourite eating spots, among them King + Bannatyne in the Exchange District and KYU Grill at The Forks. Except Sandwiches and Selfies has never been about finding the best sandwich on the planet, he maintains. Mostly it’s about giving his Instagram followers a chuckle to start their day while providing him with the perfect excuse to learn more about his adopted hometown and province, two slices of bread at a time.
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DARE: CAN YOU WATCH FULL VIDEO! Riding dirty with me�� • • #chamillionaire #ridingdirty #weirdalyankovic #rockhall #sandwichesandselfies #wpg #sing #funtimes #sandwichlife #rolling #driving #backlane #burgerking #burgertime • • @chamillionaire @barstoolsports @weird_als_lunchbox @mtv @muchmusic @energy106fm @virginradiowinnipeg @921citi @ctvmorningwpg @sonyrecords @jimmyfallon @jimmykimmel @tomgreen @sethgreen @bugerkingcanada
Every Tuesday morning, Duffy challenges his loyal legion of fans to guess where he is, after he posts a shot of himself taken at one iconic, local location or another. A few weeks ago he was standing in front of the Elm Park Bridge, adjacent to the Bridge Drive-In. Previous to that he was at the foot of the White Horse monument, in the rural municipality of St. Francois-Xavier. Heck, one time he loaded the entire family into the car to drive two hours past the Perimeter, just so he could take a picture of himself — bare-chested in the middle of December — eating a sandwich in front of a sign reading, "Welcome to Miami." (Get this: in the winter months, he keeps a frozen, Tim Hortons breakfast sandwich stored in his glove compartment, just in case he’s out and about and spots a picture-perfect spot, but doesn’t have a freshly prepared sandwich with him.)
"Last summer we spent a few days driving through the Interlake and this year we intend to explore southern Manitoba," he says. "I hear there’s a giant turtle welcoming you to Boissevain — I definitely want to get a shot of that — as well as a giant camel or something out that way, too." (We think he means Sara, a 17-foot tall dromedary situated in Glenboro just south of Spruce Woods Provincial Park, home of Manitoba’s desert-like Spirit Sands.)
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When you’ve had a "day" and it’s so close to the weekend but not there yet • #sandwichlife #soclosetotheweekend #sandwichesandselfies #winnipegjets #middleprovince #winnipegwhiteout • • Thanks for helping @ilovecitybread and playing along • @cbcmanitoba @ctvwinnipeg @cbc @wpgpoliceofficial @cbcnews @accesswinnipeg @weheartwpg @energy106fm @looksmartvideo @thesocialctv @foodnetworkca
As whimsical as Duffy’s venture is — did we mention the video he posted where he prepares a PB&J sandwich while shimmying around the kitchen to the strains of Destiny’s Child’s Bootylicious ("I don’t think you’re ready for this jelly...") — there is a philanthropic component, too. Placing his hand over his coffee cup to let his server know he’s OK for now, he opens up about his childhood in the nation’s capital; in particular, how at the age of 10, he accompanied his parents to food banks, and how grateful he was when the three of them headed home with jars of peanut butter and jam, along with a loaf of bread.
"Besides food, we also relied upon Ottawa’s snowsuit fund so I would have something warm to wear come winter. Things finally started to change for us by the time I was in Grade 7 or 8 but you never forget that sort of thing."
Because of that, Duffy recently unveiled a branded clothing line featuring his official logo — an animated headshot of himself sporting a pair of shades — with all proceeds going directly to Winnipeg Harvest.
"As more and more people following me kept asking about swag, I figured this was the perfect opportunity for me to give back in the form of what I received as a kid, which was food," he says, noting there is a link on his Instagram page people can follow to order Sandwiches and Selfies T-shirts and hoodies. "The money goes to a great cause, which is obviously fantastic, but it’s also a good life lesson for my own kids, I think, that they shouldn’t take things like food in the fridge or a meal on the table for granted."
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Monday sandwich Memories From my 1st week of posting. • Saw a classic bathtub pic on someone’s page and it got me thinking, yep this could work. • #bathandbodyworks #bathtub #bodyshop #candles #naked #sandwichesandselfies #wpg #cleanliving #metime #relax #classic #sandwichlife #yass • @bathandbodyworks @bbwcanada @bodyshopsaleee @bedbathandbeyond
One more thing; we couldn’t very well let a sandwich aficionado go without asking him to weigh in on the age-old question: does a hamburger qualify as a sandwich?
"If you go to Wikipedia, a sandwich is defined as two pieces of bread, plus whatever goes between them," he says. "So if you’re asking me, a hamburger is definitely a sandwich. As for a hotdog, well, that’s a whole other can of worms. Online, I always make sure to steer clear of things like religion and politics, but the one time I called a hotdog a sandwich was probably the most controversial thing I’ve ever done. The responses were through the roof, 99 per cent of which began, "Dude, a hotdog is so not a sandwich!"
Dave Sanderson was born in Regina but please, don’t hold that against him.