In a YouTube interview, Valentine says he invented the wrap in 1980 when the toaster at his restaurant was broken and a regular customer ordered a club sandwich for five straight days. In this version of the story, Valentine claims that after five days of trying to make the toaster work, he offered the man a club sandwich wrapped in tortilla, cut into thirds with melted cheese on top. “And from that day on,” he says, “they called it a wrap.”
But in an interview with Ken Hoffman of the Houston Chronicle in 2010, Valentine says he invented the wrap “a few years” after he first opened the restaurant in Stamford in 1980. He again cites the broken toaster, but there’s no mention of the five-day lag for inspiration. And this time, Valentine says, “In the mid-’90s, the Food Network was visiting our restaurant and my manager called the Club Mex a ‘Wrap.’ The name stuck.”
This website has already established that venerable baseball manager and culinary pioneer Bobby Valentine is guilty of either misremembering or slightly misstating the details of his purported invention of the wrap sandwich. By both accounts, he invented it because a regular customer wanted a club sandwich and the restaurant’s toaster was broken. But the details of the story vary.
Now, via Bill Pennington of the N.Y. Times, comes yet another version of the story. Check it out:
“I remember it like it was yesterday, even though it was 1982. I had been buying $4 toasters from Caldor. I wouldn’t buy an expensive toaster because we didn’t have that much money and there was only one menu item involving toast: a club sandwich. But the banker who loaned us money came in for lunch often and he always wanted a club sandwich on toast.
“So the banker comes in one day and the toaster is broken. In fact, it broke and we had thrown it out. The waitress comes into the kitchen with a long face wondering what we’re going to do because the banker wants his club sandwich. Well, we had just put nachos on the menu and we were ordering tortillas from Phoenix, too.
“I was cooking and I looked over at the tortillas that were sitting there. I grabbed one and put all the ingredients of a club sandwich into the tortilla. I rolled it up and I melted a little cheese on the top to keep the tortilla from opening up. And I said: ‘Tell him, we don’t have club sandwiches today but this is a club Mex.’
“And he ate it and liked it. A few weeks later, my manager goes on a local food-network program and they ask if we have invented anything unique at the restaurant. And he says: ‘Yeah, we have a club sandwich that we wrap. Bobby made it up.’
Again we have the regular customer requesting a club sandwich and a broken toaster. But note: Valentine claims to “remember it like it was yesterday,” but this time it’s definitely 1982 — not 1980 — and there’s no mention of the five straight days in which the banker ordered his club sandwich. Also, this time the it’s a “local food-network program” that came and visited and not the Food Network, and this time it’s only a few weeks after the invention of the wrap, not the mid-90s.
To Valentine’s credit, the human memory is a strange thing and the events in question happened at least 30 years ago. Plus, every decent storyteller will tell you there are always minor details that get emphasized and exaggerated with time for the sake of improving the story.
If Bobby Valentine wants to say now that he remembers it like it was yesterday, that it was definitely 1982 and that it was a local food program that helped establish the name “wrap,” let’s just take him at his word. This is the man that brought the fake mustache to the Major League dugout. I’ll allow him some embellishments here and there.