The underdog contender for a prestigious Auckland food award has taken the humble sandwich all the way to gastronomy's top table.
Liam Fox has been nominated for the Lewisham Foundation's outstanding chef award, finding himself among some of Auckland's biggest names in fine dining.
The sandwich artist runs Fort Greene cafe in Karangahape Rd's St Kevin's Arcade with his wife Andrea, selling "quality meals between two home made slices of bread", as their Facebook page says.
Also nominated in the outstanding chef category are My Kitchen Rules judge Ben Bayly at Baduzzi/The Grove, Des Harris at Clooney and Darren Johnson at Masu.
Mr Fox said his inclusion in the category was completely unexpected.
"I've always watched the Lewisham Awards from afar," he told the Weekend Herald.
"When I got the call to say I'd been nominated it was a real surprise."
Now in their 15th year, the Lewisham awards are an industry- only event - nominees are picked and voted for by those within the hospitality industry.
"I suppose we do feel like the underdogs because we're pretty new on the scene - but I kind of like being the underdog."
At just 30 years old, Mr Fox is young and a relative newcomer.
He paid his dues sous cheffing here and overseas for several years before setting up Fort Greene last June.
After starting out in Ponsonby, the business moved to St Kevin's Arcade just over six months ago, where they have quickly developed a loyal fan base.
Mr Fox guesses about half his customers are regulars.
At Fort Greene, the emphasis is on elevating the humble sandwich by treating the ingredients that go in it with respect and seriousness, Mr Fox said.
"We try to stay seasonal and stay true to the ingredients."
A good sandwich starts with the bread, he says, and like most other ingredients at the cafe, it is made in-house.
So are the sauces and the smoked kahawai that goes in Mr Fox's most popular sandwich - the Fish One.
Inspired by the classic English fish dinner with a Kiwi twist, smoked kahawai is paired with homemade tartare sauce and mushy peas to make one very tasty sandwich.
"Some people are so loyal to the fish they won't try anything else."
He sells up to 20 orders of the Fish One a day.
Asked whether he thought Fort Greene could take out the fine dining heavyweights to win the category on June 5, Mr Fox said he was "cautiously optimistic".
"I don't want to focus on trying to win though," he said.
"I just want to keep doing what we're doing and if we win, so much the better."
Fine dining sandwiches
(from the Fort Greene cafe menu)
The Fish One: House-smoked Kahawai (handmade) fish fingers, mushy peas, tartare, pea shoots $14
Salted Beef on Rye: Braised beef brisket, wholegrain mustard, Emmental cheese, pickles, iceberg $16
The Vege One: Roasted butternut with Za'ater, garlic and cumin, silverbeet, goat cheese and cashews $14
Grilled cheese (breakfast): Mix of four cheeses, grilled, on house bread with pickles $12