MADISON - In a special first-ever live judging event, classic southern flavors and Wisconsin cheese prevailed in the 2017 Grilled Cheese Academy Recipe Showdown.
A panel of culinary experts tasted, deliberated and ultimately selected The Mississippi Comeback as the winner of the sixth annual competition. Created by Lorie Roach of Buckatanna, MS, this inventive grilled cheese creation beat out over 1,600 entries from
competitors from across all 50 states in the Grilled Cheese Academy's most competitive showdown yet.
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 combine for the perfect combination of sharpness and creamy meltability, accented by bacon and corn confetti, roasted tomatoes and crispy fried okra.
As the Gold Award winner, Roach will receive a $15,000 prize for her winning creation. The judges were wowed by the creativity of her sandwich, and how well the Southern ingredients complemented the cheese.
"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," said Houston Chef Roshni Gurani, winner of Food Network's Chopped and contest judge. "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."
The Silver Award went to the Seoul Food by Susan and Monica Greene of Redondo Beach, CA. 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, UT, took home the Bronze Award. 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.
With so many delectable entries, three winners just weren't enough. 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 all, the judges were impressed with the expert use of Wisconsin cheese in each of the finalists' grilled cheese creations. "If you are going to riff on a classic like grilled cheese then you better start with a good base – Wisconsin cheese is an excellent place to start," said Trevor Meers, Editorial Director of Midwest Living and contest judge. "I can't think of a better place to judge a grilled cheese competition than in the heart of Wisconsin, America's Dairyland."
The judging panel also included Madison food blogger Alice Choi of Hip Foodie Mom, Milwaukee food and cheese writer Lori Friedrich, 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.
"This annual competition is one of our favorite ways to celebrate America's passion for the amazing, specialty cheeses of Wisconsin," said Suzanne Fanning, WMMB Vice President, National Product Communications. "The judges were all blown away by the creative flavor combinations and innovative use of Wisconsin cheese varieties."
Want to make your own?
Looking to try your hand at one of the mouth-watering entries in this year's contest? Then visit grilledcheeseacademy.com/recipe for all recipes from across the U.S.