This past Sunday, April 12, was National Grilled Cheese Day, and on that day, the Final Grilled Cheese Invitational took place at Los Angeles Center Studios in downtown L.A. Or maybe it wasn't the last one. A few slices of crispy buttered bread with molten cheese can be mighty addictive and this annual event is even more so. With four heats of roughly 50 teams competing for the coup de grâce in one of four categories, it was a hearty, heady, orange-tinged afternoon, and one people won't soon forget.
The day was unseasonably cloudy, a nice change from years past when the temperatures rose so high the food could have cooked itself. This year, the entrants actually struggled with slow-to-heat pans and cold ingredients, upping the waiting time for the cacophonous crowd of citizen judges.
Happily standing four-deep, the people who paid to have their opinion counted waited for a taste and chance to rank the sandwiches on a scale of 1-20 for taste, 1-10 for presentation, 1-5 for Wessonality ("Is this sammy special?") and 1-15 for the spaz (or, weirdness) factor. Each sandwich was only given 20 ballots, and with a shockingly low return rate, every vote really did count.
Numerous trophies and sponsor-donated Breville panini machines were given out. The fan favorite trucks, included Greenspan's and The Grilled Cheese Truck. Returning champ Jodi Taffel, aka, The Bacon Babe went home triumphant with the Previous Winners trophy.
After five or so hours of joyous gluttony, Audrey Wongvitavas was declared the grand winner and Lady Poobahleesi of Cheese. She also walked off with an Executive Judge prize from Eddie Lin of Deep End Dining, in addition to the popular vote. Her recipe for The One with The Moist Maker, was a play on French onion soup in a more portable form. (As for that name? It's a reference to an old Friends episode.)
For an idea of what some entrants brought to the table, local favorites Hot Knives entered The Crust Lord with two types of cheese, cooked and raw shallots and lemon peel. Fan favorite David and Pam Lomme's entry (and past winner) included escargot, truffle butter, mushroom, Havarti and Swiss. The creativity extended to many fronts, with volunteers dressed to the nines and one woman who wore a cowgirl outfit that included chaps made of American cheese slices.
Some clever sandiwch names included I Sing the Sandwich Electric, 7th Inning Stretch, Lunch Lady, The Recumbent Vicar and Not Our First Rodeo. Puns were aplenty in this safe space, including "Gouda morning" "Brie all that you can brie," and "Gr8ers gon' Gr8."
Festivities founder Tim Walker has said that this was the last time he's throwing his cheese party, but to the joy of the late afternoon crowds, a representative of the Rotary Club (who have benefited from the annual event) said they might bring it back in a different form (Zombies were mentioned) next year. Yes, please.