The 2015 Grilled Cheese Recipe Showdown received a record number of recipe submissions this year, making it extremely difficult, albeit delicious, to narrow the contenders down to the six awarded sandwiches we are revealing today. A huge thank-you to all who participated and submitted a recipe! Once you learn about (and drool over) the winners, head over to GrilledCheeseAcademy.com to download the free recipe eBook so you can re-create these award-winning grilled cheeses in your own kitchen. Read on for each recipe’s description and what our Grilled Cheese Insiders had to say about what made each sandwich a winner.
Presenting, the top three winners…
The crème de la crème. The top of the crop. These three sandwiches all are outstanding in their own right, and uniquely delicious, putting them above and beyond your taste buds’ highest expectations.
The Gold Award: The Sports Bar by Stefanie Abi-Rached & Chris Schaldenbrand
While you don’t generally frequent your local pub to find the finest culinary masterpieces, The Sports Bar is turning that perception on its head. This sandwich marries together your favorite sports bar flavors to create the grilled cheese of your dreams. At the core of the sandwich is shredded chicken smothered in a zesty BBQ sauce with an added kick of spice. Melted on top is a creamy gorgonzola fondue that mingles magically with the gooey mozzarella. Matchstick carrots and celery add a nice crunchy texture, and the final touch, which ties it all together, is the crispy slices of mustard-coated bread to give that added zip. It’s unexpectedly complex, yet familiar, and all things delicious.
Here’s what our Grilled Cheese Insiders had to say about The Sports Bar:
“Wisconsin gorgonzola fondue smothered over Sriracha-BBQ chicken? Count me in! This creamy, crunchy, sweet and salty sandwich is a perfect reflection of everyone’s favorite game day meal. I love how it pushes boundaries and turns a typically messy meal into a handheld delight. Totally genius.” – MacKenzie of Grilled Cheese Social, 2015 Grilled Cheese Insider
“I am impressed with the combination of flavors and textures in The Sports Bar! The creaminess of the cheese is balanced nicely with the crunchiness of the celery and carrots, while that spicy sauce gives every bite the perfect amount of zing.” – Lynne of 365 Days of Baking and More, 2015 Grilled Cheese Insider
The first-place winners and creators of The Sports Bar, Stefanie Abi-Rached and Chris Schaldenbrand, took home the grand prize of $15,000. Stefanie and Chris love to spend their time in the kitchen, experimenting with their own new recipes and combining influences from both of their cultures (a mix of Lebanese, Cuban and American) to create flavor explosions. Newly engaged, their mutual love of food led to the realization that they were a match made in heaven!
In the future, Stefanie and Chris hope to open their own restaurant. When we asked what inspired the winning recipe, they said their inspiration stemmed from a beloved happy hour spot that had just closed its doors. “As we began brainstorming, we were missing football season and mourning the closure of our favorite happy hour spot out here in Orange County,” said Stefanie. “The bar had gourmet hot wings to die for, and so after discussing a million ideas, protein options, cheeses and sauces, we decided nothing would be more true to ourselves than paying homage to football season and our favorite bar’s chicken wings.”
The Silver Award: The Picante by Lauren Wyler
The Picante is all of your favorite taco truck flavors in a grilled cheese sandwich. Chorizo, roasted poblano peppers, Mexican street corn salad and a cilantro vinaigrette are tied together with Wisconsin pepper jack and aged cheddar cheeses on jalapeño cheddar cheese bread.
“The Picante is everything I love in a sandwich; it has bold flavors and a nice level of heat from the jalapeño and poblano peppers. The chorizo makes it hearty, and the lime and cilantro add a bright freshness to contrast the richness of the Wisconsin cheddar and pepper jack.” – Jennifer of Savory Simple, 2015 Grilled Cheese Insider
The Bronze Award: The Mahalo by Kristin Solorzano
“Mahalo” means “thank you” in Hawaiian. And that’s exactly what your taste buds will be saying after just one bite. Pretzel rolls are loaded with crispy pork belly and a sweet and slightly spicy pineapple chutney, then complemented with bold Wisconsin chipotle jack and aged cheddar cheeses.
“The Mahalo is a pork lover’s dream come true. The spiced pineapple bourbon chutney is a fantastic and unexpected twist. And when combined with the Wisconsin chipotle jack and sharp cheddar, it makes this sandwich truly unforgettable.” – Mary of Barefeet in the Kitchen, 2015 Grilled Cheese Insider
And now, the three Judge’s Choice Winners.
These sandwiches each found a unique way to stand out from the crowd and catch the eyes of our judges.
Judge’s Choice: The Balboa by Kiran Matsko and Rebecca Gallatin
Inspired by the City of Brotherly Love, this sandwich calls on two of Philly’s favorites: soft pretzels and Philly cheesesteaks. Wisconsin provolone and American cheeses meld perfectly with cherry peppers, sliced ribeye and red onion on a pretzel roll.
“The Balboa is a knockout recipe! The combination of sliced ribeye and cherry peppers creates a one-two punch to your taste buds. The addition of American and provolone cheeses makes this a very approachable grilled cheese that everyone will love.” – Donna of The Slow Roasted Italian, 2015 Grilled Cheese Insider
Judge’s Choice: The Marsala by Walter Geise
A sweet but spicy rub adds a nice kick to this sandwich created with Marsala-glazed pork chops and sautéed mushrooms. Wisconsin parmesan and mozzarella cheeses add a texture and depth that will satisfy your savory cravings.
“The Italian fortified wine in this sandwich really adds a rich, caramelized flavor to The Marsala. Beautifully seasoned pork chops, sautéed mushrooms and ooey-gooey Wisconsin mozzarella cheese come together to create a comforting grilled cheese designed for the Italian-lover in all of us.” – Donna of The Slow Roasted Italian, 2015 Grilled Cheese Insider
Judge’s Choice: The Picnic Basket by Deborah Biggs
Celebrate summer with The Picnic Basket. Stacked tall on homemade blueberry bread, this sandwich is loaded with charred pimento cheese that’s made with Wisconsin cream cheese and sharp cheddar. Black Forest ham, warm bacon, fresh basil and Wisconsin Swiss cheese complete the full panorama of summer flavors.
“This mind-blowing sandwich speaks volumes to me! Being a Southern girl, I have a soft spot for pimento cheese. When there’s charred corn, crispy bacon, salty ham and homemade blueberry bread involved, well, you can guarantee I’ll be in love. The flavors played perfectly off one another, creating a well-balanced, standout Wisconsin grilled cheese!” – MacKenzie of Grilled Cheese Social, 2015 Grilled Cheese Insider
Check out the recipe eBook for free download on the Grilled Cheese Academy website that features all of the winning recipes. You won’t be able to make just one.