By Lindsey Maeda
Like a wizard, Daniel Noriega, a student at East Los Angeles College, conjures up novelty sandwiches on his new YouTube series, Shazamwiches. Noriega has an affinity for sandwiches and it is apparent by the way his face lights up when speaking about them.
“I really think (sandwiches) are the perfect food. Primarily because they are so versatile, and you can do anything with them. You can make them as healthy or unhealthy as you want them to be,” said Noriega.
As a true sandwich-lover, Noriega worked at Subway. The producer of Shazamwiches, John Alvarado, also worked there, but at a different location. Shortly after receiving their jobs, the two stopped working at Subway for the same reason: they were not “Subway material,” as Alvarado called it. Noriega said that the employees did not like the way he made sandwiches. They told him that he needed to make a sandwich faster, instead of properly.
Aside from sharing an interest in quality sandwiches, Alvarado and Noriega are huge comic book fans. They both met at the comic book store, Comic City in East Los Angeles, and would often hang out there on Wednesdays to check out the new books. Their backgrounds with comics were a large influence on the name of the show.
The word, “shazam” comes from the series, “Captain Marvel Adventures,” published by DC Comics. Shazam is an ancient sorcerer who gives the mortal, Billy Batson superhero powers. Whenever Batson says “shazam,” he is struck by a bolt of lightning and transforms into his alter ego, Captain Marvel.
“We take two slices of bread and basically try to make any sandwich we can out of nothing. It’s a Shazamwich,” said Noriega. In each show, Noriega goes to a different home and tries to make a sandwich out of whatever he can find lying around in the kitchen. Before filming, Noriega scans out the refrigerator and contemplates what he can use.
In the past episodes, he has used anything from packaged meats, to fresh vegetables and even leftover meals. Noriega uses everything that is provided to him in the hosts’ kitchen. The only items he contributes to the show is a loaf of bread and his quirky personality.
“My experience as a DJ for ELAC’s broadcast radio station has definitely helped me out with speaking in front of a camera,” said Noriega. Once the pair is ready to start filming, cameraman Andres Munoz, uses a Canon Rebel T3i camera to shoot the cooking process. Munoz works closely with Noriega to achieve the best lighting and camera angles, while Alvarado stands off to the side and helps direct.
At the end of the show, when Noriega presents his finished product, he immediately thinks of a name for his sandwich. “We like to name the sandwich at the end, not the beginning. It’s like naming a baby,” said Alvarado.
Shazamwiches aired their first pilot episode on Nov. 3, which is National Sandwich Day. When Noriega found out that National Sandwich day was coming up, he and Munoz had to hurry the production so that the show would come out on time. They ended up producing and uploading the video within two days. “The whole thing about Shazamwiches is that rush feeling you get when you know that you have to pump something out,” said Noriega.
Alvarado did not join Munoz and Noriega until the first official episode. This time around, the crew had much more time to fine-tune everything during the filming and editing process.
As Alvarado and Noriega continue to produce their show, they try to keep Shazamwiches up to a professional standard. Anyone who will appear on the show is to fill out a safety waiver.
For editing, Alvarado uses a popular program used in the film industry Final Cut Pro. “I want to keep myself up to the standard of the industry. Right now, one of our goals is to make a video that is enjoyable, easy to watch and professional. We basically want to produce something that is high quality,” said Alvarado.
Alvarado utilizes the skills he has gained from the film courses he took at Mount San Antonio College and a small internship he landed with industrial and landscape video. He also looks to Food Network as a source of inspiration. Alvarado even searched for a sandwich episode to see how that show was produced.
“I’ve been watching the show (Epic Meal Time), and they really put in some production quality. From watching them, I’ve noticed that we need to learn how to characterize our show,” said Alvarado.
One of Noriega’s friends, Marisol Ceja, designed a logo for Shazamwiches. The logo is a thunderbolt coming out of a cloud, striking a sandwich, and was displayed in their first episode. They hope to get this logo onto shirts and aprons, so they can put these items up for sale.
In future episodes, Noriega would like to take on challenges, such as making the po’boy, Dagwood and Elvis Presley’s favorite peanut butter, banana and bacon sandwich.
By the end of their season, Noriega said he plans to hold a contest for their viewers, were they think of a name for the sandwich in the last episode. “A lot of it is stress from trying to manage Shazamwiches and being a full-time student. Right now I’m going to Cal State LA, and I had to put back two essays I was working on to produce the show,” said Alvarado.
The most-frequently asked question others have for Noriega is “What if that person has nothing in the house?” Food-wise, they said that coming up with a sandwich has been fine. Although, the home they were working in during the first episode gave them a few challenges, since the kitchen did not have a stove or oven. Instead, they had to use a hot pan and toaster oven.
“We have to come up with something. Even if it’s going to be a baking soda and dog food sandwich,” said Noriega, jokingly. Alvarado and Noriega have created videos that are clear and easy to follow, and they hope to inspire others to get into the kitchen and make use of what they have. They show a passion and talent for making something out of what may seem like nothing.
To see the latest episode of “Shazamwiches,” visit http://youtu.be/21wOPK65xrU.