Wrapping up your food is a not a new idea, it’s been around since 1792, when the 4th Earl of Sandwich, John Montagu, allegedly didn’t want to leave the gaming table where he was playing cards, so he asked for a serving of roast beef to be placed between two slices of bread so he could eat with his hands. However, the ﬁrst wrap as we know it today, with food wrapped or rolled inside a tortilla, was allegedly the brainchild of an American baseball pro called Bobby Valentine. Currently the manager of the Boston Red Sox, Valentine came up with the idea at his restaurant in Stamford, Connecticut, in 1982. One of his regulars, who always ordered a turkey club, came in on a day the eatery’s toaster had broken.
“I was cooking and I looked over at the tortillas that were sitting there,” Valentine says. “I grabbed one and put all the ingredients of a club sandwich into the tortilla. I rolled it up and melted a little cheese on top to keep the tortilla from opening up.” The banker liked the result so much, it became a permanent ﬁxture as the ‘club sandwich wrap’.
As with many foods, there are a number of origin stories; the Mexican burrito was ﬁrst mentioned in 1895, and The Box Lunch restaurant in California included the ‘Rollwich’ as a signature menu item in 1977.
Rolling ingredients into a wrap helps to keep the produce fresh, blends ﬂavours, adds texture and makes for an effortless easy hand-held eating experience – easy for both in-house dining and takeaway.
Wraps come in many tasty styles, from classic ﬂ our wraps and tortillas to rice paper, nori sheets, egg omelette, lettuce or blanched cabbage leaves. Basically, you can create a wrap from anything thin that can encase a ﬁlling.
What to wrap
The sky’s the limit when it comes to making a wrap. Any ﬁllings can make up a wrap; they can be savoury or sweet, cooked or raw; and they can be served hot or cold, sliced or whole.
Every café or restaurant will have different ideas for wraps. As well as multiple ﬂavours, there are also loads of ways to fold, scroll, roll and wrap.
The only golden rule of a wrap is to make sure it’s got some moisture - be it classic mayo, tangy sauce, something spicy, relish or chutney. Season your ﬁllings well and include your ﬁve plus a day for freshness and colour.
Of course, because there are no rules as to what you can add into a wrap, there are no rules when it comes to cultures and traditional food styles. Mexican, Tex-Mex, American, Asian, Indian and good old Kiwi fare like roasted meats and salads, and even whitebait fritters have been nestled into a wrap and satisfyingly devoured.
Wraps are delicious in all seasons, but they are particularly handy for autumn menus as they can be toasted or served with warm ﬁllings, dipped into sauces, topped with melting cheese and are hearty enough to keep even the largest appetite satisﬁed. They also make great cabinet or catering food as they can be made ahead and heated to order.
Inventing ideas for wraps is fun, but don’t forget the classic wrap dishes like cheesy quesadillas, enchiladas, spicy bean burritos or the easy TikTok 4 way wrap hack! Served hot or toasted with warm relishes or sauces, these make great autumn all day dining.
The café price of a wrap is largely determined by the ﬁlling; this gives plenty of opportunity to build in value. A good option is to label the different wraps according to ingredients; for example ‘standard’ may be simple salad wraps, while ‘premium’ can contain more expensive ingredients like wagyu beef or crayﬁsh.
To prevent cross contaminating or sticky cheese residue on the sandwich press, fold your wraps in baking paper before heating.