The key to eating well—very well—at work is some Sunday prep, a little at-your-desk meal assembly, and a drawer pantry involving more than pepper packets and duck sauce
When we say “Bring your lunch to work,” we know what you’re imagining: bologna and sadness. But BYO lunch doesn’t
have to be a disaster. To enjoy a finedining experience cubicle-side, forgo the community microwave for the “desk pantry,” a stash of a few simple, non-perishable ingredients that will lift your lunch and fit in a drawer. Turn the page for GQ’s version (compiled by chef Mashama Bailey of The Grey in Savannah), featuring food-lifters like dried seaweed (a salty, crunchy flavor bomb) and olive oil (the best way to upgrade anything), and a week’s worth of too-good-for-work meals from chef Teddy Klopf of Provenance in Raleigh. — Jessie Mooney
Really? A Desk Pantry?
What makes any meal are last-minute flavor boosters that can elevate everything from reheated lasagna to the last third of yesterday’s Chopt salad (or the recipes on this page). Which is why you need a desk pantry—a drawer, a shelf, or just a corner
under your desk—with non-perishable staples. Chef Bailey suggests a few cans of tuna for a protein hit. Apple-cider vinegar and flake salt for cranking up flavors that are already there. Mustard powder and dried herbs like rosemary, thyme, marjoram, and oregano, along with live basil, for adding flavors that aren’t. Ground pepper, red-pepper flakes, and Sambal Oelek (GQ’s favorite hot sauce) for some bite. Honey and dried fruit like apricots and cranberries for making savory dishes a lot more complex. Dried seaweed, sesame seeds, almonds, and pine nuts for crunch. And any Italian cook will tell you that finishing a dish with a drizzle of good olive oil makes it, scientifically, 20 percent tastier.
The Sunday-Night Blitz
Three delicious, easy-to-make dishes that need less than an hour of prep time and combine to make five meals—and some amazing leftovers.
Olive-Oil Chicken-Thigh Confit
3 lbs. chicken thighs
Hondashi (fish-stock powder)
Salt Ground black pepper
A few sprigs of fresh thyme 1 fresh bay leaf
Inexpensive olive oil
- Pat the thighs dry and season generously with the Hondashi and
salt and pepper.
- Place in a covered pot with the thyme, bay leaf, and enough
olive oil to submerge.
- Bake in a 200-degree oven 8 to 12 hours or overnight.
- Put the chicken pot in a sink filled with ice water—this keeps
the meat juicy.
- When cool, remove skin and bones and store meat in an airtight
“Braised” Pork Belly
1½ oz. Hondashi
8 oz. Sambal Oelek
2 Tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 cup water
3 lbs. pork belly
- Throw everything but the meat into an electric pressure cooker
with a removable cylinder, then mix. Add the pork.
- Cook for 40 minutes on high.
- When the meat stops steaming, use the icing technique you just
- Pull the pork from the fat and refrigerate.
- In a pot, submerge six eggs in cold water.
- Bring to a boil, then immediately remove from heat and let stand
- Shock in ice water.
A Week of Insanely Great Lunches
In addition to your desk pantry and Chef Klopf’s Sunday recipes, you’ll need a few more things this week: sourdough, bacon, avocado, lemon, butter lettuce, tomato, dill spears, and mayo.
Mix equal parts Sambal, honey, and olive oil with a pinch of dry mustard and salt, then stir in chopped eggs. Add
lettuce, bacon, and tuna, and dress with lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Slice tomato super-thinly onto bread. Add chicken, pulled pork belly, and bacon, and drizzle with oil and vinegar.
Chicken & Egg Sandwich
Mix chicken and eggs together with pinches of dried marjoram and oregano and dry mustard. Add a spoonful each of pine nuts and mayo. Make into a sandwich with pickles and apricots.
Lettuce Wrap Fold pork, sliced dill-pickle spears, red-pepper flakes, dried fruit, and vinegar into lettuce for a healthy(ish) burrito(ish).
Assemble avocado, tomato, and pork on sliced sourdough and dress with Sambal and basil.
Counterpoint > Making Lunch at Your Job Isn’t Your Job
Dinner is about the food. Breakfast is about the food. But lunch isn’t about the food at all. It’s about the break. A break from your cubicle. A break from Tim and his whimsical ties. Even if you love your job, you need the break. You know what noon means in Latin? “Necessary retreat.” (Okay, not really.) But it’s impossible to take a break without leaving the building. Even
the universe acknowledges the importance of lunch. How? Well, she’s made lunch so cheap and quick to order. Five Guys workers are Talladegalevel efficient during the lunch-hour rush. Let them do the work. You rest. — Mark Anthony Green
Make Lunch While You Shave
Chef Bailey’s Ten-Minute Udon
- Put 2 cups of beef broth on the stove with a couple of ounces of
- Add fresh udon noodles. Cook until tender.
- Strain noodles, reserving broth. Pack separately.
- Combine broth and noodles and season with a few pantry
(The GQ office favorites: vinegar, olive oil, dried herbs, seaweed, sesame seeds, and fresh basil.)