The throngs who attended last year's Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational at Griffith Park returned home with a few gripes about parking problems, bad signage, elbow-throwing crowds, no booze and the desire to fill their tummies with a few more gooey, cheesy samples. (They also hailed the first-place winner in the “Karma Sutra” category, a short-rib-and-Tallegio grilled cheese sandwich with apricot-caper puree dreamed up by Chef Eric Greenspan of The Foundry restaurant.) This year's “1st 7th Annual” Grilled Cheese Invitational promises to be a better organized cheese, butter and bread free-for-all. How do I know? All is revealed in the following (mildly edited) IM session with GCI founder and organizer Tim Walker aka Capnshady.
Margyrochlin: Just for clarification's sake, what was the problem last year from your perspective?
capnshady: Last year, we had the biggest, best, most insane grilled cheese invitational EVER! That being said, the parking situation at that location was depressing. We could have easily had more people at the event. So not enough people could actually get to the cheese. Another thing is that some people come expecting to pack their stomachs with a ton of grilled cheese, but really, it's a tasting event more than a competitive eating event. Kraft Singles has graciously signed on board once again as our title sponsor, and will be on hand to distribute thousands of their fantastic sammiches, so that'll help give more cheese to the masses.
Margyrochlin: Do you feel good about the preparations for this year's GCI?
capnshady: The new location has crazy-easy access to public transportation as well as plenty of parking. When we announce the location on 4/20/09, we will suggest that people take public transportation to the event or even carpool, but not because of necessity this time, more so because it's fun and the right thing to do. This year, we are capping the attendance for the event at 5,000 people.
Margyrochlin: Beer or no beer?
capnshady: We are finalizing everything but unless something screws up, we'll have a beer and wine garden.
Margyrochlin: Any changes in the grilled cheese categories?
capnshady: Last year, we were trying to reserve the missionary category as standard bread, butter and cheese, with the Spoons being exotic bread, butter and cheese. This year, we did away with Spoons. We received a lot of comments on how it made the competition more complicated.
Margyrochlin: Describe a sandwich you never want to see again.
capnshady: As far as the weirdest sammich, the one with head cheese comes to mind. I couldn't even look at it.
Margyrochlin: Will there be any grilled cheese luminaries in attendance this year?
capnshady: As far as dignitaries, we're working on 'em. Any help or suggestions we'd love to have. Hell, how can we get Jonathan Gold there?
Margyrochlin: This is a good place to make your case.
capnshady: Make a case? What, like bread-butter-cheese-victory isn't enough of a case? Like 300 competitive sammiches isn't enough? I'm sure that guy owns a pair of elastic waistband pants! The event is shaping up to be a big one. Tell Jonathan if he shows up we'll give him a trophy to hand out to his favorite sammich.
Margyrochlin: Is there any pre-competition training involved?
capnshady: You wouldn't believe the rigorous training that our Mayor of Cheese and Doctor of Cheese go through for this event. The rigorous training for the Mayor of Cheese is more of a yearlong dedication to cheese. For the Doctor of Cheese, it's the elastic pants — and pacing. They end up tasting EVERY sammich. They wouldn't talk to me for a week after the event last year. This year, we've doubled the amount of competitors, which means that that they'll end up having to sample 300.
Margyrochlin: Like the guy who can speed eat hot dogs at Coney Island?
Capnshady: Kinda like that, but with a lot more cigarettes in between.