Grilled Cheese Invitational

Vegans Take Home Trophies at the 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational

smcdonaldUncategorized 5 Comments

On Saturday, April 28, I competed on behalf of Compassion Over Killing in the 10th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational (GCI) at the Pasadena Rose Bowl–and took home the trophy for 3rd place in the professional chef category!

The GCI is the largest sandwich cooking contest in the country, drawing in nearly 10,000 people every year – and this is the first time any awards have been given to vegan entries!

In addition to the competition itself, the event includes cheese-themed poetry, grilling demonstrations, a costume contest, and food trucks. With all the cheesy hoopla, the crowd is led to believe that cheese is something to celebrate, when in fact dairy products are incredibly harmful to animals, the planet, and our health. We entered this contest to represent vegan cheeses and demonstrate that the compassionate version of America’s favorite sandwich not only tastes great–it might even taste better than the original!

Grilled Cheese Invitational

My winning Honey Pot (dessert) entry, The Aurora Borealis (recipe below), featured sourdough bread fried in vegan butter and maple syrup; filled with Daiya Mozzarella, Tofutti Cream Cheese, and brandy soaked peaches; and was topped with swirls of blueberry and strawberry reductions made from scratch. Judges had no idea it was vegan until they announced the winners!

I also entered savory vegan sandwiches in the Kama Sutra and Missionary categories, both of which received outstanding feedback. The Kama Sutra entry, The Big Bang (pictured below), was made with homemade pumpernickel, roasted cashew cheese, tofu feta, and black olive tapenade; sliced beets; and Daiya Mozzarella; topped with a homemade ranch dressing and caramelized onions. Our Missionary entry, Champagne Supernova, was a tasty combination of homemade Hawaiian sweet bread and champagne cashew cheese, melted together with Daiya Mozzarella, and cooked in Earth Balance Coconut Spread.

I was thrilled to be one of three vegan competitors, including our friends at the newly-opened, vegan-friendly brewery Golden Road Pub (sister to COK favorites Tony’s Darts Away and Mohawk Bend), and home chef Jenny Harrison, who won first prize in the amateur chef category for her Honey Pot submission.

After multiple Cupcake Wars wins
by vegan bakers, it was only a matter of time before cheesy vegan items
took their rightful place as award winners, too. Chili cook-offs, you’re

Check out more pictures of our cheesy vegan adventures from the GCI and our Best of VegWeek photos on Facebook.

Grilled Cheese Invitational

The Award-Winning Aurora Borealis

  • 2 slices thick rustic sourdough bread
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance or other vegan butter
  • 3 tbsp Daiya Mozzarella Shreds
  • 3 tbsp Tofutti Cream Cheese
  • ½ peach, peeled and soaked in a combo of 50/50 brandy and simple syrup
  • 1 pound of berries
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ¼ cup orange juice

Berry Reduction Sauce 

  1. Mash berries with sugar and juice and let set for at least an hour.
  2. Pour berry mixture into a small pot, place over low heat, and lightly simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until liquid has reduced by almost half.
  3. Strain out large bits and seeds (optional) and refrigerate in a glass jar (keeps for about a week).

The Sammich

  1. Melt one tbsp of Earth Balance and maple syrup in a nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat.
  2. Drop one side of the bread into mixture and remove. Then add another tbsp of the Earth Balance and syrup in the pan and place the dry side of the bread into the mixture.
  3. Leave the bread on the heat and grill until the sugar has caramelized and is golden brown.
  4. Flip the bread and immediately add the Daiya cheese on ONE slice of the hot side of the open bread and smear the cream cheese on the other slice of hot bread.
  5. Slice the peach and stick onto the cream cheese.
  6. Stick the two open sides of bread together and continue to grill, flipping once, until both sides are crispy and middle is hot.
  7. Cut in half and drizzle with Berry Reduction.

For more of my vegan creations, visit

Comments 5

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