Last week, I was thrilled to win 1st place in the grilled cheese competition that I competed in (out of 12 teams), so in case you were wondering how to win a grilled cheese competition, here’s how:
1. Get a Good Partner – My friend asked me if I would be her partner for her friend’s grilled cheese competition and she said up-front that she wanted to win. I was on board with that – she proved to be a very good and competitive partner.
2. Do Your Research – We went to a grilled cheese food truck website, looked at the menu items and recreated a few of the sandwiches to see which one we liked best. We chose a sandwich that had pepper jack cheese, fire roasted salsa, Fritos (we renamed it “corn chip crumble” to be fancy), and a cilantro-lime sour cream. After tasting the sandwich, I suggested that we add some chipotle for some flavor and spice. Perfect. We also added a black bean soup shooter to go along with the Tex-Mex theme.
3. Dazzle them with Presentation – Anytime you watch Top Chef and other food shows, the story & presentation is key. Integrate as many of the elements together as possible. Because we had a Tex-Mex style sandwich, we enlisted some help from one of our copywriter friends that developed the name “Queso & Besos” (Cheese and Kisses) – it rhymes, it incorporates cheese, and it’s just plain cute. I used a piping bag to pipe out the cilantro-lime sour cream and added a sprig of cilantro as garnish. We served the sandwiches on trendy, rectangular white plates (the other contestants just used the plates that were provided), and we used square-shaped disposable shot glasses to serve the soup (Amazon.com is great for ordering these types of things, by the way). We also served Hershey’s Kisses as a “dessert” to go along with the “Besos” part of our name. It also didn’t hurt that we had custom-made Queso & Besos t-shirts. When we came into the room with those shirts on, everyone knew that we meant business. There was also a team song requirement, so we chose the very popular and upbeat Harlem Shake song which starts out with a spanish phrase.
4. Prepare in Advance – We made sure to prep everything in advance – we made the cilantro-lime sour cream and put it in the piping bag so it was ready to go. The black bean soup was cooked and blended and placed in a crock pot for the event. The Fritos were pre-crushed and placed in a plastic bag. Anything you can do to reduce the amount of cooking time at the actual event will help to relieve stress & help you to focus on cooking an amazing sandwich.
If you follow these tips, you will have an excellent chance at winning a grilled cheese competition (or other cooking competitions), should you compete in one.
This party was top-notch. The hosts like to throw fabulous theme parties and went to an events company and rented burners, extra tables for counter space, lights, and pillars. I felt like I was on Food Network in kitchen stadium. They had microphones, an emcee and a videographer. There were also 10 judges selected at random (I happened to be a judge as well), and all of the sandwiches were judged on taste, presentation and creativity on a scale of 1-5. As the winners, we were awarded with a trophy and bragging rights until next year, where we will defend our championship title.
Below is the video that captures the evening – it was a great party and I had a wonderful time. Enjoy!
[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/59950082 w=400&h=300]