This Saturday was The 1st 8th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational, and Choo and I came ready to eat, grill, and hopefully win. The morning was my kind of morning, with a nice overcast sky that would help keep the day somewhat cool once the marine layer burned off. We arrived at 9 AM to sign up with the other competitors:
This year, there were categories for professionals and amateurs; even though it’s been about six years since I’ve cooked professionally, I decided to play fair when the application asked if I had ever worked as a chef or cook. This did, however, allow for more awards, so more people had chances to win, which I consider a good thing. Then again, it did put me in the pool with The Big Boys, which meant I needed to bring my A-game.
Since we arrived well before the Invitational was open to the public, Choo and I took a little time to explore the site.
The competitor’s area, just before the storm:
Some of L.A.’s popular food trucks arrived to sell their versions of grilled cheese and other fabulous snacks:
Even though I didn’t get a picture of their truck, I hit the Sweets Truck to get a caffeine fix for the two of us, along with a Red Velvet and a Carrot Cake Whoopie Pie (I sampled both, and chose the Carrot Cake, which was fantastic)–perfect for a mid-morning sugar rush while we settled in to a nice spot under a tree. We camped out until our heat rolled around at 2:55, getting a chance to hit all the free samples supplied by the fantastic people of Tillamook and meeting some of our fellow competitors.
Some of my friends remember my run-in with The Chicken. He was back.
And he brought a friend.
Oh, great. A double batch of nightmares!
Finally, it was grilling time.
Setting up my station:
Now, let’s talk about my sandwich. I called it Peary’s Got The Blues, and entered it into the Honey Pot (the dessert category). The PGTB had a homemade Vanilla Pound Cake, Mascarpone & Cambozola cheeses, homemade Pear-Port Butter, homemade Dulce de Leche, and Toasted Hazelnuts. It took some work to create the perfect sandwich–in theory, I knew all the flavors would make a perfect mesh, but my problem was when I grilled the sandwich, by the time it was browned, the cheeses broke and when I sliced it, everything would squish out into a puddle. I finally came by a solution (which I’m not going to share, but it’s what I spent 2 years and $32K for culinary school for) and it worked. I mean, how could pound cake fried in butter not be awesome?
No, we didn’t win, sadly. I gave it my best shot, and we had a good time, which is really what it’s about, right?
I do have one thing I really need to get off my chest, because the action of one person really burned my britches. See, there was a group of people from the general public who signed up to become judges; they were responsible for getting samples and checking off on the ballots they received. Most everyone we encountered was polite and curious about our sandwich, and we received a great amount of positive feedback. Unfortunately, there was one guy who collected samples, ate his share, then dumped his stack of plates with the ballots untouched at the corner of my station. This was so wrong on so many levels, since, first of all, dumping a stack of used plates right next to where I’m preparing food is disgusting. Then, for not just myself, but speaking for the other competitors who lost a ballot due to this jerk’s actions lost a vote, when we compete, we’re putting our time, our energy and our money into being a part of this competition. To not vote for our entries is theft, plain and simple.
So, Mr. “Judge,” you’ve won this very special award:
Go on, hang it on your wall. You earned it.
Other than that hiccup, it was a great day, and I was thrilled to see Jodie & Sparky, who we hung out with before the competition, win first prize in the Amateur Kama Sutra category (a mini-ciabatta stuffed with a bbq-ish chicken, bacon, and some lovely super-melty cheese that really deserved the win).
Now it’s time for me to start plotting for next year’s event. I’m already thinking the keyword there just might be pralines.