As far as comfort foods go, it’s hard to beat a classic grilled cheese. The creators of the Belhaven Grilled Cheese Fest struck cheesy gold when they had the idea for the event, which is shaping up to be the biggest (read: first ever) grilled cheese cook-off Jackson has ever seen. We talked to the big cheeses themselves to get the inside scoop on the festival.
First of all, how did the idea for a grilled cheese festival come about?
The Belhaven Grilled Cheese Fest was conceived over a beer among a couple of friends, like most good ideas in life. Julio Cespedes, Jr., Mary Kathryn and Hunter Evans and Mary Alex and Peyton Thigpen are the original cheese-heads who agreed that everyone loves a grilled cheese and this festival should happen. There is a lot of nostalgia for people around grilled cheese, and everyone has their own way of making one. We thought it would be a great idea to draw and build on the amazing community of the Belhaven neighborhood.
What can festival attendees look forward to experiencing?
The festival will take place in the beautiful Laurel Street Park and is free to everyone. We have recruited about eleven teams that will be preparing grilled cheeses in the park during the festival. Festival goers are encouraged to sample the sandwiches from the teams and participate in the Peoples' Choice Award. There is also a panel of judges that will decide who takes home "THE BIG CHEESY," which is a foam cheese crown. There will be music, so everyone is encouraged to bring blankets, chairs, kids and small coolers if you wish. Snap Happy Face Painting will be available for the kids as well.
When did you first become passionate about grilled cheese?
I think most of us became passionate about grilled cheese when our parents introduced it to us as kids. Back then, when asked if we would rather eat vegetables or a grilled cheese, the choice for us was always an easy one. If you chose vegetables you should go to the broccoli festival. Oh, there isn't one? Guess that's our point. (Joking. We love vegetables.)
What does the best grilled cheese consist of, and what is your favorite thing to pair with a grilled cheese?
At the Grilled Cheese Fest, bread and any type of cheese are the minimum requirements. It's hard to beat a classic, simple combo of bread and cheese, but we have some teams that will try, and we encourage it. As far as what to have with a grilled cheese…we like it all. If we want to be "grown-ups" about it, maybe we’ll bust out a bottle of riesling or vinho verde. When we are feeling nostalgic and want to be kids, give me a Coca Cola on ice. One of the founding cheese-heads, Julio, is so into cheese that he puts it in his hot chocolate to start the day. This is also his preferred pairing for grilled cheese, hot or cold weather. Call it weird or simply South American flair, but he seems to have superpowers throughout the day.
The Belhaven Grilled Cheese Fest is scheduled for this Sunday, April 29, from 2 to 6 p.m.