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“Go Ahead! Make My Sandwich!”
By Joe Bouchard
Published: 10/23/2017

County jail
The following is an installment in "Icebreakers 101: Hello, My Name is Problem", a series featuring "Ice Breaker's" designed to promote training awareness and capabilities in the corrections industry.

Note: This icebreaker was created for the Department of Corrections EPIC committee. This group not only solved problems, it was fun.

An important part of this icebreaker is the concept of teamwork. Regarding teams, many will immediately concentrate on leadership. However, followership is infrequently assessed. Yet, considering this overlooked element of any team starts with assessing oneself.

I believe that knowing oneself is important in working well in a team. Those who do not recognize their strengths and weaknesses are less able to work optimally in a team setting. The components could bring down the whole if there is no self-familiarity.

Now ask yourself this: Is anyone hungry? Let’s talk about the universal topic – food.

Food is necessary. Food is love. Food is community. Food is the backdrop to conversation. Most of all, food is an identifiable element in all groups. Everyone can relate to food. Therefore, food is fodder for this exercise. Dare I say, this departure is food for thought.

This icebreaker’s purpose is to get people to personify a sandwich that they invent. Participants will use their own traits, good and bad, in the form of food to create this sandwich. This allows participants to look at how they may present themselves to others. This exercise works well just before lunch at a day-long meeting in anticipation of lunch.

I found it useful to solicit a volunteer for a judge. This person will grant the prize and/or bragging rights to the wining team.

The facilitator announces that participants have five minutes to come up with the following: Describe what a sandwich that bears your name would contain and why it fits your personality or your group’s personality.

Note: When creating your signature sandwich, the sandwich does not necessarily have to be delicious or even palatable. It simply must be a representation of the creators. For me I would answer:

The Joe Bouchard sandwich, a.k.a. the ‘Problem Child’ would feature:
  • Whole wheat bread lightly toasted (a classic, hearty foundation);
  • Canadian bacon (a nod towards my heritage and perhaps my hammy presentation style);
  • Brie cheese in moderation (a little salty, somewhat cheesy, but not too much);
  • Thousand Island dressing on the side (as to some my alleged sense of humor could be described as a little dry);
  • Sprinkle with a few chocolate covered coffee beans (a caffeinated jolt with a bit of sweetness to drive it and to include an out-of-left field element of surprise).
This is an odd but non-offensive sandwich that you will remember.

The class is broken up into teams to design a signature sandwich that is just right for their team members. If there is one particularly strong personality, the team sandwich can be built on that individual’s qualities. When five minutes of brainstorming has passed, the facilitator asks for a volunteer to describe their creation with justification of the ingredients tied to the attributes of team members. The volunteer delivers the information then is told to select the next “volunteer” to reveal their signature sandwich. Repeat until lunch comes or everyone is rendered immobile and crabby due to hunger. At this time, the judge can render her or his decision. Consider the beauty of the sandwich. The importance of the combination cannot be overstated. Alone, each part of a sandwich is all but ordinary. Its combined components can be a meal as well as a tasty statement.


On 11/22/2016, I conducted this icebreaker for the first time in Mount Pleasant, Michigan at an EPIC meeting for the Michigan Department of Corrections. It was an excellent fledgling flight and I anticipate running this icebreaker for many years. Below you will find photos of this event and the three finished concept sandwiches. These entries were sent to a local sandwich ship for possible inclusion in their menu. Bon appetite, my friends!

And from left to right our two hosts and THE JUDGE (Kathy, Duncan and Robert). I note without reservation but with bona fide respect that our JUDGE is a veritable tower of integrity, channeling the judicial talents of King Solomon, and Judges Judy and Ito.

And now the three sandwich making teams…

The “All Inclusive” team is comprised of Wil, Pam, Brad, Brenda and Deb.

  • Everything bagel (This is an all-inclusive bagel – it includes everything)
  • Peanut butter (brings everything together – sticking together)
  • Peach habaneros (Exciting, unique, sassy, never boring).
The “Fire Starter” team is comprised of Shane, Bob, Chris and Matt.
Team member Bob inspired the “Below Zero”
  • Focaccia (Strong base – Heavy, sturdy, great foundation for a strong sandwich)
  • Roast beef, corned beef, bacon (Be it hot, cold or almost frozen, you can always get it to provide energy for all)
  • Sauerkraut (Adds a lively spirit to the sandwich)
  • Red hot cherry peppers (It stars to build your fire)
  • Spicy cream cheese /pepper cheese (Keeps the fire going on cold days and nights)
  • Provolone (Not too sharp, sturdy texture, levels out the flames).
The “Melting Pot” team is comprised of Quenton, Peter, Lorenzo, Stephanie, and Dianne.
  • Marbled rye (marks the diversity of the group)
  • Applewood smoked bacon (good bacon takes time and this group takes time to get things right)
  • Turkey burger (an interesting alternative)
  • Pepper jack cheese (for spice in life, zip, pizzazz)
  • Garlic infused Aioli (Classy while outside the box)
  • This goes well with Dr. Pepper.
And the winner is…
Team Melting Pot

Thanks to all of those from the 2016/2017 MDOC EPIC team. May all your sandwich making endeavors be rewarding and delicious!

Joe Bouchard is a Librarian employed with the Michigan Department of Corrections and a collaborator with The International Association of Correctional Training Personnel (IACTP). He is also the author of “IACTP’s Corrections Icebreakers: The Bouchard 101, 2014” and "Operation Icebreakers: Shooting for Excellence" among others. The installments in this series include his opinions. The agency for which he works is not in any way responsible for the content or accuracy of this material, and the views are those of the contributor and not necessarily those of the agency. While some material is influenced by other works, all of the icebreakers have been developed by Joe Bouchard.

Visit the Joe Bouchard page

Other articles by Bouchard:


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