Last weekend, thousands of people and two hundred competitors gathered in downtown Los Angeles for the 2nd 8th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational. The event has four categories and both amateurs and professionals, like our friends at the Grilled Cheese Truck, can compete to make the best grilled cheese sandwich ever.
The amateur winner of the American-style category is Ryan Bentz. Ryan created the winning sandwich with the help of his "excellently skilled" mom. Their sandwich, dubbed America, The Sandwich, had to feature classic grilled cheese ingredients: bread, orange cheese, and butter.
To find out what Bentz had to say about the experience and his win, keep reading.
YumSugar: Why did you pick the American-style category?
Ryan Bentz: I picked that category because it would give us a good chance to win. Although the organizers had touted it as the most difficult category to win, I looked at what past winners had won with in other categories and it was intimidating. In the other categories, people were making grilled cheese enchiladas, pulled pork, things with mango slaw, and even marshmellow peeps. This category made it easy to figure out what kind of sammich we wanted to make. When I first went to sign up, they wanted to know what was in our sandwich and I had no idea what to say. I assumed that most people had already gotten their grilled cheese recipes down, so it would be easy for them, but we didn't know what we wanted to do. The American-style took away a lot of the guesswork.
YS: What did your sandwich consist of?
RB: White bread, cheddar cheese, and butter. There isn't a whole lot you can do in the American category. I'm not permitted to disclose further details. Well I could, but then I would have to kill you.
YS: What made it stand out from the rest?
RB: It was the bread. Without a doubt. We received several compliments and everyone we talked to wanted to know what the bread was. We even had an executive judge seek us out to inquire on the bread and also to compliment us on our sammich!
YS: Everyone has their own method of making the perfect grilled cheese. What’s yours?
RB: It's important to have a good bread and to use lots of butter. It's a symbiotic relationship. With the right kind of bread, you can use more butter, and more butter means more deliciousness. And it is important to make sure that the butter is applied evenly all the way to the edges.
YS: What was your motivation for entering the contest?
RB: My mom was the driving force behind this. She won a chili cook off last July. When I went home to visit over Christmas, I was wearing my shirt from the 2010 Grilled Cheese Invitational and told her about the event. Some friends and I went last year expecting to sample competitors grilled cheese and we were disappointed to find that we needed judging passes, but had not purchased them. So we were determined to at least be judges this year, but my mom thought it would be fun to enter as competitors. My mom and I ultimately decided it would be fun to do as a mother/son thing even if we didn't win.
YS: How did you prepare to make so many grilled cheese sandwiches?
RB: It really helps having two people. One person preps while the other person cooks. And with the time we were given, we needed every minute. It worked out really well with one person cooking and the other person prepping and serving. This is not a competition I recommend trying on your own.
YS: Have you noticed any developing trends when it comes to grilled cheese sandwiches?
RB: I wouldn't consider myself on the cutting edge of what is happening in grilled cheese, but I have noticed that everyone seems to want to find extra stuff to fill up their grilled cheese with. I'm waiting for the grilled cheese renaissance — when it will be cool to just get back to basics. Call me a grilled cheese minimalist.
YS: Now, that you’ve won, do you have any plans to open a restaurant/go into the grilled cheese business?
RB: Ha ha. Definitely not. While I would love to own a restaurant or even a gourmet food truck, I don't think that it is something I could succeed in.
Did you attend the Grilled Cheese Invitational? What's your favorite kind of grilled cheese?
Source: Flickr User angeldye