LA: Grilled Cheese as Far as the Eye Could See

Grilled Cheese Invitational

by Rene Lynch |

Grilled Cheese Invitational

What a cheesy event. That’s a compliment, of course, to the Second Eighth Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational, held Saturday near downtown L.A. (as the name suggests, the contest doesn’t take itself too seriously). Thousands were in attendance to enjoy music, culinary showdowns, food trucks, and wash it all down in a beer and wine garden. And then there was the grilled cheese competition, featuring more than 200 sandwiches. I lucked out and was asked to help judge, and award a trophy to my favorite grilled cheese ‘wich.

I wish I could have given everyone an award just for the sheer creativity of the variety of fillings.

In addition to pretty much every kind of cheddar, provolone and American cheese variation you can think of, there were sandwiches stuffed with Easter-colored peeps, pate, a Charlie Sheenwich featuring Tiger’s Blood cream cheese, Dodger dogs, pop rocks, habanero jam, bacon, prosciutto, speck, deep-fried cheese-encrusted cheese-filled ravioli, pork belly, pot roast, blueberry pie filling, all kinds of flavored mascarpones, creme fraiches and cream cheeses, provolone-stuffed piquillo peppers, peanut butter, Nutella-and-bleu cheese (I had to spit this last one out ’cause it was awful)….

The exteriors were also creative, including banana bread, corn bread, zucchini bread, stuffed croissants, potato bread, mini Krispy Kreme doughnuts, a waffles-and-fried-chicken grilled cheese sandwich, a sandwich that sported no fewer than seven cheese elements including a cheese crisp as garnish and a drizzling of cheese sauce on top, and a zombie grilled cheese sandwich accented with a splattering of “brains” (chunky tomato sauce). But if there had been an award for audacity, it would probably go to the competitor who used two slabs of mozzarella, breaded in panko and deep-fried, as the bread.

I’ll pause for a moment so you can take in that visual.

There was even a bout of molecular gastronomy from one competitor who made French onion soup bites, including a sphere of beef stock intended to explode — and did it ever — when you popped it into your mouth.

In all, I tried a bite of more than 60 different sandwiches over the course of four different “heats.” I lost count at that point and started to wonder whether I was doing permanent damage to my arteries. Then came the dessert round, where I was rewarded with a bite of my favorite sandwich. Entered as a “burnt cream sandwich,” the makers described it as a creme brulee grilled cheese (photo above). The outsides of the bread where slathered with a raw sugar mixture that bubbled and caramelized in the pan. I asked them to email me the recipe, and if they let me, I will share it with all of you.

Were you there? What did you eat? What were your favorite sandwiches?

Here were just a few of the sandwiches I just had to photograph:


Just in time for Easter.

Move over, KFC’s Double Down: This sandwich used two slabs o’ deep-fried mozzarella cheese as bread.

Dodger dogs and orange cheeze sauce on a hot dog bun.

Waffles and fried chicken grilled cheese sandwiches prepped and ready to go.