MADISON -- Deciding which is the best grilled cheese in America is serious business. And in order to be the best, you've got to come up with a creation that's unique. A panel of culinary experts on Wednesday, June 14th tasted, deliberated and ultimately selected the winner of the sixth annual "Grilled Cheese Academy Recipe Showdown." Surprisingly, a recipe from outside the Midwest beat out more than 1,600 entries from all 50 states to win the competition.
"One we just had, had kimchi, which is fermented cabbage," Trevor Meers with Midwest Living Magazine said.
Meers said he was honored to serve as a judge in the nation's cheese capital -- Madison, Wisconsin.
"When you come to a place like Madison, the heart of cheese culture, really the best cheese culture in the country, it's great to do a contest like this where you get to bring attention to the food scene in the Midwest," Meers said.
Roshni Gurnani isn't from the Midwest, but she knows a thing or two about what makes a grilled cheese. She's one of the winners from the Food Network Show "Chopped."
"Is the cheese being overpowered? Can we taste the different types of cheese? Are they balanced well with the different flavors of the sandwiches," Gurnani said.
Contestants from across the country showcased what Wisconsin does best.
In the end, the "Mississippi Comeback" was declared the winner. According to a news release, the Mississippi Comeback "expertly brings together Wisconsin cheese with classic Southern flavors. Sourdough bread is coated in tangy Comeback sauce – a Mississippi classic made with mayonnaise, chili sauce, lemon juice, mustard and spices. Wisconsin fontina and cheddar cheeses create the perfect combination of sharpness and creamy meltability, accented by bacon and corn confetti, roasted tomatoes and crispy fried okra."
“I thought the Comeback sauce was a unique idea, and I loved the fried okra. It literally tasted like Mississippi sandwiched between two slices of bread. Using both Wisconsin fontina and cheddar cheese really brought the sandwich to the next level – the flavors of the cheese stood out among the other ingredients," Gurnani said in the release.
The Silver Award went to the Seoul Food by Susan and Monica Greene of Redondo Beach, California. They combined Wisconsin butterkäse, muenster and aged cheddar cheeses with coffee-spiked bacon jam and kimchi on a telera roll.
The Mardi Gras by Shauna Havey of Roy, Utah, took home the Bronze Award. It featured a homemade cheese spread made with Wisconsin mascarpone and mozzarella cheeses blended beautifully with olive salad, mortadella, ham, salami and Wisconsin provolone cheese on a ciabatta roll.
Three additional sandwiches – The Elote, The Flying Pig and The Medianoche – were given Judges’ Choice Awards. These competitors will each receive $1,500, a Wisconsin cheese gift basket and be included in the 2017 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown Book of Champions.
In August, complete recipes for the winning sandwiches will be available for download in the book of champions.
The judging panel also included Madison food blogger Alice Choi of Hip Foodie Mom, Milwaukee food and cheese writer Lori Fredrich, Chicago food blogger Kit of The Kittchen, Madison’s Melted Food Truck owner David Rodriguez, and cheese writer and educator Jeanne Carpenter.
Presented by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board and Wisconsin cheese, the Grilled Cheese Academy Recipe Showdown asked contestants from around the country to create an original recipe for the best grilled Wisconsin cheese sandwich. Contestants were judged based on their recipe’s overall creativity, taste, presentation and use of Wisconsin cheese.