It is an unconventional competition. Last week at the 8th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational, cheese lovers held contests to determine the day's best grilled cheese sandwiches, as judged by event goers, while the crowds enjoyed cheese-related poetry and free cheese samples. Begun by cheese-enthusiast Tim Walker in 2003, the invitational was originally a small contest among friends. This festival now feeds hundreds of visitors.
Momoh Pujeh came to the festival with several friends and says he expected organizers to surround him with a selection of sandwiches. "Today I am hoping that there is going to be enough cheese that I can actually satisfy my desire to eat cheese at all times," he said.
Cheese-lover Pujeh had registered as a judge so that he could enter two parts of the competition. In one, amateur and professional cooks fired up their grills to feed throngs of hungry judges. In the other, visitors received free cheese from corporate sponsors and small businesses while they enjoy performances on the festival's large stage.
Event goers could hear butter hissing everywhere as competitors and free cheese trucks grilled throughout the day.
There were many varieties of cheese, from sharp cheddar to feta. Contestant Kristen Carter submitted her favorite sandwich for one of the amateur grilling competitions. "It is called the Boba Feta. It is made with homemade spinach-feta bread and it has inside of it herb feta, regular feta, roasted red peppers, avocado and mild cheddar," she said.
Hungry judges crowded around each competitor's table, waiting for a bite that they would then critique and grade. Adrian Dustin-Munoz was one of the last judges to taste Carter's creation.
Dustin-Munoz says that as a judge, he made decisions based on flavor and creativity. Each sandwich he tried received a thoughtful critique, as he scribbled comments in his notepad. "The bread is very very hardy, but it is kind of crispy-mushy at the same time, which is a nice mix," she said.
While the winners get no money, Carter says that chefs have other reasons to compete. "We get to be renowned in awesomeness for creating a glorious sandwich, and I guess we get a trophy as well, which I guess is kind of cool." she said.
And, say Adrian Dustin-Munoz and Momoh Pujeh, after a couple hours walking around the festival grounds, they got their fill of cheese and grilled cheese sandwiches in a cheese-lover's paradise.