This Saturday I will be on the radio for the best damn…. series with hottie and talented Chef Ryan Scott. They asked me to write a little story about myself and I thought I would share it as a preview of the fun we will be having for 30 minutes on air. I hope you can tune in and hear me chat about this crazy catering life I have had on the side and see whether 2013 makes it my permanent future!
I am sad to say we have no more public events this year left but I hope to re-establish us at the Oakland Art Mur Mur & see where ForageSF goes next since I am missing the final one on Dec. 22nd even though Iso did give us the invite. I wish the best of luck to everyone there and I’m also very glad to see that New Taste Market was a success with Jesse and hope to still be a part of it next year! Happy Holidays to all and thank you for making 2012 another great and gooey year for us here at GrilledCheezGuy. I love you all from the bottom of my heart.
A quick cheesy bio:
My culinary background comes mostly from growing up having my grandmother and mother both having strong French traditions in the house and most importantly, in the kitchen. When my mother was too busy to cook for the family, my grandmother took over ensuring that not a single night at the dinner table wasn’t a fresh made meal. My brother and I had to have a good excuse for why we were not joining the family at the dinner table and from an early age I learned the power of food both for its nutritional value and family value. I enjoyed helping out in the kitchen and watching my grandmother go to her old cookbook she had created over the years for recipes and advice here and there.
About 6 years ago now I moved with 2 friends to the bay area from NJ to escape the cold and start a new life. I felt living ½ my life in NJ and ½ in FL had pretty much covered what I needed to see and visit on the East Coast, although Boston was also a consideration. I moved to the bay area without ever visiting but only knowing it had good food, good outdoors nearby, and was friendly to the homosexuals like me. Keeping my career with the same science company from NJ I was fortunate enough to get to enjoy the great dining establishments all over and one of my friends had the same passion for it as me. We spent many nights either cooking meals from what we got at the Berkeley Bowl or going out to new restaurants that we had heard, read, or scene. She finally took the courage to go from being a teacher to working in the restaurant world and I will never forget walking her down to Sea Salt where she landed her first job.
Since none of us had any family or friends here we quickly learned this was a common case in the bay area and that our friends we made were also transient people. At some point I started a night called Family Night where the tradition was for one person to be the guest chef and make the meal for everyone else who pitched it either with money or booze or both. Very much like my family, it became one night a month when you knew you would have a nice home cooked meal and get together with everyone to talk and chat and catch up on everything. The event became very popular and we always had new people at each dinner and new chefs trying new things. I often liked to make my food as interactive as possible to show those that were a little more shy in the kitchen how easy it was. We did everything from pizza night to pad thai, from CCCFC (coca cola chicken fried chicken) to sushi night and everything in between. These nights became the inspiration for my dinner series Behind the Cart.
Before Behind the Cart, however, I stumbled upon a grilled cheese contest that was going down in a dive bar in Oakland. I entered with my roommate and although we had a very good and boozy time, we lost as we took the rules too seriously and thought we could only use standard white bread and Kraft cheese (an ironic joke now considering I might be in Kraft commercial in the near future). The moment I saw the bread brought in from Santa Cruz I knew I was screwed. A year went by and the contest returned again and this time to SF where I realized that winning this could be good for my standings in the foodie scene. It wasn’t until the night before the contest that my friends noticed I got 4th place last year (the 1st loser) and my hopes went up. It was a nice and cool day in Dolores Park where I whipped up my new recipe that would become our classic go to Sammy for most events and after a lot of cooking and a big gin & tonic I found out I won after waking up on my couch and seeing a trophy. A 1st place. I got invited to go to Nationals in LA and became the 1st person to win 1st place in both regionals and nationals of the Grilled Cheese Invitational. That was 2009 and now I have racked up a total 7 trophies in both amateur and professional category. They made me go professional the day I brought my trophy, a TV dinner tray, and a small gas grill to the Oakland art mur mur to try my hand at the up and coming street food scene. I guess the combo of my personality and a winning recipe really took off because soon we were doing events, weddings, corporate lunches, festivals, and everything people could think of. In 2011, I won 5th best food truck without even having one. Still to this day every email starts with people requesting our food truck at their event (unless they have used us before and caught on). It is only our lack of capitol and investors that has kept us from keeping up with the scene but at the same time it also makes us a legend and a myth and the guys that can go places others simply cannot.
The GrilledCheezGuy story has reached a critical moment where it needs to go to the next level or we will not be able to continue on like this much longer. I would love to have a food truck more than anything in this world and my time is running out as the Melt moves towards cheesy domination of the bay area and brie-yond with its god awful and extra salty sammies. If we don’t find a way soon I am considering moving from GCG to full time Behind the Cart guy as I like the future it could have and love working with other chefs from around the bay area.
Mostly, this whole experience has been nothing short of wonderful as I have got to meet so many people, go so many places, and do so many things with this little seedling of an idea that started so many years ago. I would not be here without my grandmother and her brick, without my friends who liked to cook, without those successful family nights, and certainly without those grilled cheese invitational contests. From cooking at an after party with all the big names of SF to winning 20,000 dollars from Bulls Eye BBQ the stories are priceless and I actually hope I get to share them in a book someday soon as writing is one of my biggest passions alongside food.
I have seen Chef Ryan Scott’s cute face and name here and there and this is just another moment that would have never happened without the story of the GrilledCheezGuy. I look forward to sharing my sandwich and my story with your fans.