JOPLIN, MO – Like most aspiring artists, Ben Candrel simply wants to be recognized and appreciated for his work, his creations. Between the hours of 11 AM and 7 PM, Candrel is a Subway Sandwich artist and according to his boss Jake Birch, the best sandwich artist “this side of the Mississip’.”
“I got a job here ‘cus I knew this would be a place where I could really challenge myself and let the fruits of my craft shine,” Candrel said during his 15 minute break. “I take every order and make the sandwich into something that transcends just the bread and the meat and the lettuce. Of course sometimes they don’t look right and I have to scrap the whole project and start over, but my customers don’t mind. They come here to be a part of something more than a lunch break. They come here to be moved. And I move them.”
At the beginning of each of his shifts, Candrel prepares by locking himself in the janitors closet for 3 minutes. According to Candrel, the darkness and silence are necessary in order to find his “inner voice.” The next hours are spent making each sandwich unique and a stand-alone piece of art. Although he takes roughly 30 to 90 minutes to make a single sandwich, Birch still says Candrel is his best employee.
“Well, yeah, he does refuse to wear the uniform and always shows up in all black but there is a bigger picture here,” Birch said. “And of course a lot of people want him to hurry and just make their sandwich, but they don’t really understand what’s going on. He’s an artist, he’s sensitive. There are things going on in that boy’s head that I can’t even fathom. He is creating beauty, and they just want to eat. That’s not what Ben is about. He is about love and art… expressing himself in a beautiful way with his soft touch and the way his little mouth slides to the side while he’s working. His little tongue darting out to moisten the soft lips that don’t really need to be any wetter. It makes me feel… no, I mean them, our customers, it makes them feel good. Not good like horny good, but good like deep down in the soul good.”
While Birch and a good number of the customers like what Candrel is doing, there are a few people that feel a fast food establishment is not the place to create art.
“I won’t even go in there when that freak is working,” said Paul Herman, a local businessman. “Seriously, it’s not like the kid is Michelangelo. It’s a god damned pickle slice, it doesn’t need to be placed exactly right just to compliment the damned strand of onion. This one time, I went in there and the little sissy was crying like a little girl with a skinned knee. You wanna know why he was crying? ‘Cus someone ate the damn sandwich that he had just made. What did he expect they were gonna do with it, sit on it and call it a dildo?”
Birch is currently making plans to exhibit Candrel’s art inside the Subway and hopes that within months, the art will be featured nation wide.
“This kid is a genius and soon the whole world will know it. That fat guy got famous for eating Subway, just think of what Ben can do making art out of Subway,” Birch said.