Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

by on April 23, 2013

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It’s become one of my favorite foodie events of the year – The 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational, once again, drew a crowd of thousands of grilled cheese enthusiasts and more than 150 adventurous amateur and professional competitors to downtown Los Angeles on a steamy, sun-filled afternoon.

Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

For the third year, in a row I had the honor of donning my special sash as an Executive Judge for the competition (for more cheesy fun, check out my recaps from the 2011 and 2012 events). I love this – I have the chance to go right up close to the action (which, thankfully, was in a shaded location this year!), chat up the competitors and – most importantly – taste their incredible creations hot out of the pan. At the end of each heat, each judge gets to hand a big trophy to our favorite sandwich, so this is all (semi) serious business!

Photo: Anne Fishbein, LA Weekly

Photo: Anne Fishbein, LA Weekly

That’s me, pretending to look all judgy…

Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

A guy in a underpants-wearing sandwich board, nuns grilling a sandwich called “Rosemary’s Baby”, a grilled cheese superhero with American cheese “flames” affixed to her knee-high boots…all par for the course here. Here’s the thing about the GCI, if you’ve never attended – it’s delightfully wacky. But don’t let the wackiness fool you – a lot of these folks, amateurs and pros alike, have real culinary chops. In fact, one competitor I met at last year’s event, Micah Fields, did really well on Top Chef this past season.

Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

All kinds of unique cheese grilling techniques and ingredients abounded in the competition area – lots of nuts and seeds for crunch, infused butters, pickled ingredients, braised oxtail, pork rillettes, quail eggs. A number of competitors proudly told me about the local cheeses they’d brought from their hometowns (the event draws people from across the country) and their specially-made breads. More than a competition, the Grilled Cheese Invitational is a celebration of food and creativity – that’s what I love most about it.

Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

My judge’s trophy went to the team in photos above, Udder Chaos, for the sandwich they entered into the Honey Pot (aka, dessert) category, called Persian Immersion – mascarpone, cream cheese and apples grilled on pistachio-crusted pound cake with a sprinkling of mint on top. Not only was this sandwich uniquely flavorful, but it was really pretty as well. Bravo!

Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

Scenes from the 2013 Grilled Cheese Invitational

YEAH, CHEESE!! Mark the Grilled Cheese Invitational on your calendar for next April, if you find yourself in the Los Angeles area. Cheesy fun galore!

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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kalamity Kelli April 24, 2013 at 5:58 am

I always enjoy your posts and realized I had never commented before. I wish we had a Grilled Cheese Competition here – that would be great fun and think of all the melty cheese!
Kalamity Kelli´s last blog post ..Decadent Brownies and a Giveaway!

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2 Kathy Strahs April 24, 2013 at 6:43 am

Thanks, Kelli! Yes, it’s a ton of fun. :-)

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3 Kristen April 24, 2013 at 7:10 am

Look at you being all serious with your judging responsibilities :) Love it. What a fun day!
Kristen´s last blog post ..5 Minute Chocolate Cinnamon Mug Cake

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4 Kathy Strahs April 24, 2013 at 7:17 am

Lol! Honestly, I get the urge to grab a pan and cook alongside these guys, they have a great time.

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5 katie April 24, 2013 at 11:13 am

This looks awesome!
katie´s last blog post ..Lighter Spaghetti Carbonara

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6 Chelsea April 24, 2013 at 11:16 am

Love the judgy face!!! Looks like such a fun event (and now I’m hungry :). XOXO
Chelsea´s last blog post ..Win it! 3 Signed Copies of My Little Pony: Under the Sparkling Sea

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7 Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste April 25, 2013 at 9:30 am

This looks like such a fun event, Kathy! Love it!
Kelly Senyei | Just a Taste´s last blog post ..Pomegranate Guacamole

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8 Michael Strahs April 25, 2013 at 1:35 pm

I want to go with you next year. Sounds so fun!

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9 Kathy Strahs April 25, 2013 at 1:38 pm

Why didn’t we think of that? You should!

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10 Nutmeg Nanny April 26, 2013 at 7:35 am

Oh I bet this would be so fun to attend :) it looks like a lot of great energy!

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