A few weeks ago I stumbled across this festival while doing some research on cheeses. From the moment I laid my eyes on the word competition the competitive spirit in me came to life. I have always had an eagerness to compete in clashes that involve food. So I set out to do battle in the unknown, with limited experience making grilled cheese sandwiches and having no idea how this competition would be won or lost.
The Grilled Cheese Invitational (GCI) is the largest, craziest, and most exciting Grilled Cheese cooking contest in the country. The GCI promotes an almost scary pursuit of perfection in a Grilled Cheese Sandwich and allows for amateur and professional chefs to compete side-by-side in the hopes of becoming a true Grilled Cheese Champion.
The event was created by Tim Walker in 2003, in private artist loft in Downtown Los Angeles as a competition between friends. Since then, the Invitational has grown into a national movement dedicated to perfecting the art of grilled cheese, with thousands of cheese fiends and regional competitions across the country.
The Artichoke Assassin, born out of inspiration found at the bottom of several beer cans was to represent team Culinary Addictions in the Karma Sutra category. This sandwiches guts are made of gruyere, provolone, mozzarella, parmesan, asiago, and a home made artichoke and jalapeño spread tucked inside a croissant, I will share the recipe in my next post. The artichoke and jalapeno spread is a spin off of a classic recipe of mine that is usually served as a dip.
After two weeks of testing and several nights of tastings, the day finally came that team Culinary Addiction, Bryan Pines, Iqbal Djauhar, and I would make our first attempt at winning the GCI. Bryan was our runner, Iqbal our photographer, and me the Artichoke Assassins father.
I was a bit worried that we would have to cook with an electric skillet. I only practiced on a gas stove and anyone that has done both knows that there are major differences with maintaining the heat consistency that you want. This was my major hurdle in over coming so we went thru a few test sandwiches before we started to serve the judges.
We seemed to have gotten a great response, but as you know many people hold off on giving you the constructive criticism. I would have like to know what people truly thought of my sandwich and what improvements could be made. We were required to serve 20 samples in 50 minutes, which we successfully did in about 30 minutes and still had some goods to give out extra.
So the time came….. the wait for judgment. The team left to enjoy some beverages and to catch a nap, well except me. I was restless with anticipation, running thru my minds eye the days events, how my sandwich was made, was it any good, did I do a good job, and what it would feel like to win that trophy.
Unfortunately we did not win this year, but we did take a lot of experience from the competition. Next year team Culinary Addictions will be pulling out all the stops as many of our opponents did with costumes, and a more creative presentation.
Pictures by Iqbal Djauhar,