GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It was the middle of the pandemic and Jacob Pauwels was just trying to support a friend who was trying to make it big on TikTok. Little did he know that he would soon have millions of followers himself.
The name may not sound familiar to those on the social media app. But if you’ve been scrolling for the past year and a half, then you probably have seen one of his videos on your ‘For You’ page.
Pauwels started his account, Adventures In Aardia, in March 2022 to post videos about something he had grown very fond of over the previous few years: Dungeons & Dragons. The fantasy tabletop game has been around for decades now but has recently seen a popularity surge.
Less than a month later, after making a few videos about the game he was running with his friends and wife, Pauwels decided to combine his love of D&D with his love of sandwiches for a video simply titled “Roll for Sandwich.”
“I was a stay-at-home dad with a 2-year-old at the time and it was hard to create content with a toddler in the house,” Pauwels said. “And so one of the easiest times to film things was when she was strapped into her high chair to eat lunch. And so I had just gone shopping, I had a bunch of stuff and I thought, ‘Why don’t I just film my lunch while she’s eating her lunch and I could roll dice for her, it’ll be fun.'”
That video was simple enough. Pauwels rolled a set of dice designed for D&D and whichever number landed corresponded to a certain ingredient he had that was listed on a white paper plate. That first sandwich consisted of seeded white bread, pastrami, pickles, salt, pepper and mustard. A very ordinary sandwich for sure, but the premise of the series struck a chord with many users on TikTok. The video blew up in a matter of days and has since been viewed over 1 million times.
“It blew up, so many people saw it. I think it was good that my base following at the time was D&D-focused. So they understood the premise right away but it must’ve just been shared to other people and just got crazy,” he said. “I have always been a creative individual, I’ve put a lot of things out into the world, and nothing has ever gained the amount of response that that has. I knew that this was definitely something. It was easy to tell at that point.”
Since then, he’s eaten everything in sandwich form from tuna salad and spray cheese to pepperoni and vanilla ice cream. One of his creations, known as Sandwich 42, was made up of white bread, peanut butter, lettuce, goat cheese, avocado, banana peppers and kimchi mayo. Pauwels rated it a 10 out of 10 and encourages anyone to try it.
“I was definitely surprised at how good it was,” he said.
Pauwels’ account has since garnered over 2 million followers on the app and he has gotten to do some pretty incredible things. After the series took off, the Detroit Lions invited him and his family to Ford Field to do a special episode. Then Paramount Pictures also reached out to him and had him help promote the movie “Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” earlier this year.
Among all of the opportunities that have come out of the series, however, Pauwels is most excited for his next one. Season five of the series kicked off this week and will feature guest appearances from Justin, Travis and Griffin McElroy of the popular podcast “My Brother, My Brother and Me.” The brothers will be selecting certain ingredients for episodes.
“It keeps surprising me,” Pauwels said. “That just blows me away that I’m now working with people that I’ve been a fan of for a long time.”
The series has become so popular that other creators on the app have also their own version of “Roll for Sandwich.” There are ones that revolve around cereal, pizza, barbecue and even puppets. He previously had mixed feelings about the spinoffs but now views them in a positive light.
“It’s hard. You have an idea, you put a lot of work into it and then you see other people take a lot of that work that you did previously and jump off of it. And sometimes your gut reaction is to be protective of that,” he said. “My philosophy now is if we can all rise together, that’s great.”
He has taken breaks from the show and has returned every time to hundreds of thousands of likes and comments from his fans. There have now been over 200 episodes in the series and it is still going strong. The most recent episode on Oct. 13 garnered well over 300,000 views in just a few hours.
Pauwels and his wife welcomed a new baby into his family earlier this year and he is still working on his fantasy novel that takes place in the fictional world of Aardia, from which the channel’s name originated. Despite the need for a break every now and again, Pauwels said he has no plans of ending the show anytime soon.
“I feel like there is enough variety for it to continue to be interesting and I put a lot of work into making it interesting,” he said. “It is a creative outlet for me that blends so many of my different interests that it doesn’t feel stale to me. It doesn’t feel like, ‘I have to eat sandwiches again.’ I really do enjoy making the show and I have worked really hard to fight the perceived pressure that there is you have to always be making content. I don’t want to be a slave to that. If I stop enjoying this, I’m going to stop doing this.”
You can keep up with what Pauwels is working on and find every episode of Roll for Sandwich by clicking here.