So I have to caveat this post by mentioning that as far as I know, the annual Grilled Cheese Invitational Championship is just an event that some guys started doing for fun - it isn't a professionally planned event to make money for themselves or raise money for charity, its just a fun idea that has grown over seven years to become what it is now. Anyone who knows me knows that this is one (of many) of my favorite events that I look forward to every year. Unfortunately, this years Grilled Cheese Invitational was a big fail. Now, while many are complaining (like me), its only fair that they should be cut some slack given the caveat that I just mentioned. With that said... The good news for this year was that it marked the return of beer to the tourney. Sort of. They had a fenced off beer garden area with some not very good beer, but it was gone before the event even hit the halfway point. At that point, there was still an hour long line to get in. The number of people who showed up this year was massive. And while a lot of the measures to handle that size of a crowd were probably made with the best of intentions, they also ended up killing the fun. This year, you could only sample two sammich pieces in the day. That's it. And thats if you were among those of us lucky enough to get in before the sampling/judging tickets were gone (which was sooner than the beer was gone). I can only assume this must have been some attempt to make the judging more fair. Last year every plate with a portion of a grilled cheese that came out had a ballot attached, and anyone/everyone could get those sammich/ballots. Which means if you were a competitor and cut your sammich in six pieces, you could get 6 votes from that sammich, while if you cut yours in two (dumbass), you could get two votes. So this year every competitor got an equal number of ballots, but you had to have a ticket to get a sammich piece and ballot - and tickets were limited to two. This was the part that killed the day. Many attendees didn't get any tickets, and those of us that did could only sample two, meaning our judging criteria for those two was pretty indifferent. I'd advocate for opening the totals back up - if you as a competitor are smart enough to cut your sandwich in small pieces, more people get to sample and enjoy it (and the event), and you get more votes. Good for you, you deserve to win. This years event also suffered in its staging. While last year all competitors from all categories cooked continuously, resulting in sammiches of all varieties coming out at all times, this year they were separated with gaps of time in between. And physically the cooking stations this year were in one long line instead of in a group. Both of those made it difficult to have the chance to sample much variety, and with only two tickets, you became choosy about what you accepted from competitors. In fairness, Kraft Singles was also giving out free sandwich portions (no tickets needed). Its hard to make a bad grilled cheese sandwich, but bless their hearts, somehow they did. It wasn't the cheese (or cheese product), it was some chemical that I assume they must have sprayed the pans with, because thats really all you could taste.
Still, despite all that griping, this is a really great event. The announcer did a consistent and thankless job of trying to keep the event flowing despite the new setup. The weather could not have been better. And in spite of the endless lines and new systems, though you would hear complaints as you walked around, people were generally in good spirits. I'm still hopeful and looking forward to next year, but next time we're bringing our own sammiches.