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The 11th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational

Are you lactose intolerant!? Do you find bliss in Swiss!? Are you ready to eat sandwiches, grilled to cheesy perfection?!

These were the important questions asked of us at the opening ceremony of The 11th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational, held last Sunday at the Los Angeles Center Studios in downtown LA.

The Grilled Cheese Invitational is the largest grilled cheese contest in the country. More than 5,500 people, including more than 125 competing cooks (both professional and amateur), gathered for this wonderful celebration.

Ashley and I have been preparing for this event all of our lives. It was made for us!

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We arrived right as the gates opened at 11:00 a.m. We purchased judging tickets, which allowed us to judge the grilled cheese competition!

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We were disappointed to discover that the first judging round didn’t start until 1:30 p.m. Luckily there was plenty to do in the meantime! We roamed around the lot and checked out the food trucks, beer garden, and listened to the live music.

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We also ate some grilled cheese from The Grilled Cheese Truck. As a warm up of course!

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After waiting for what seemed like forever, it was finally 1:30 p.m., time for the judging to start!

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It works like this: contestants are given 50 minutes to grill 20 bite-sized judging samples. Each competitor is given a cooking kit, consisting of a skillet, spatula, knife, and other cookware. Contestants are responsible for  bringing all the ingredients necessary to make their grilled cheese sandwiches.

Each contestant is allowed to enter 1 grilled cheese sandwich per category. Since there are 3 competition sessions, competitors are allowed to compete in 3 out of 4 categories: Love, American Style; Missionary Position; Kama Sutra; and Honey Pot.

Don’t ask me how they got these category names!

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The judges (including Ashley and I!) stand around the cooking tables, watching the contestants make their grilled cheese sandwiches. Once a sample is ready to be judged, the grilled cheese staff, also known as “runners,” distribute them to the crowd.

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This sounds all nice and orderly, but don’t be fooled! In order to get the attention of a runner, you have to yell, scream, dance, or do whatever you can to get one of those samples. Intense does not even begin to describe it!

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After a lot of yelling and screaming, we were able to judge five “sammiches.” Some were better than others.

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After trying each sample, we filled out the ballots and cast our votes.

Each sandwich can score a total of 50 points per vote. Points are awarded for presentation, taste, “wessonality” (is the sandwich special?), and “spaz” (the weirdness factor of the sandwich).

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It was way too much yelling and not nearly enough eating in my opinion! But all in all the day was a cheesy delight.

For more information on the Grilled Cheese Invitational, click here.

~S

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