Everyone has heard of an East Coast–style deli. “But a West Coast deli? What is a West Coast deli?” asks Max Schlutz, executive chef and partner at Sessions West Coast Deli.

That question led him to open Sessions, a three-unit concept based in Orange County, California.

“The best way to describe a Sessions sandwich is to think of your classic deli-style sandwich turned on its head,” Schlutz says. The idea that anything in between two slices of bread is approachable is used to Sessions’ advantage. For example, if you marry Korean gochujang and a classic Italian roasted pepper marinara “and create a meatball sub out of it with pickled vegetables and sesame, you have a sandwich innovation instead of a kitchen nightmare,” he says.

Schlutz is fascinated with classic sandwiches but wants to know how he can make them better. Sure, bacon, lettuce, and tomato work, but why? “How can I make them mine and how can I make them shine?” he says. His goals are craveability and innovation, but not at the expense of ruining a classic. He uses trends—like, for example, fried chicken, smoke, and beer—and combines that with what people want: balance, texture, bold flavors, heat, and both sweet and savory profiles.

“Sessions has made the sandwich interesting,” Schlutz says.

Menu Innovations, Sandwiches, Story