Chevre over winter, because April is coming in like a laughing cow and you feta brie ready.
The inaugural Big Cheese event, a grilled cheese competition, begins today in Thornbury.
“This is a new and exciting event that will encourage residents and visitors to support local food businesses, enjoy grilled cheese sandwiches, and explore the area’s restaurants, cafes and gourmet food shops,” said Casey Thomson, the owner of The Cheese Gallery and creator of The Big Cheese.
Throughout the month of April, 16 local businesses will be offering their take on a classic grilled cheese sandwich, with bragging rights on the line.
The inaugural event is being called a “friendly, but serious grilled cheese smackdown,” where each business will be competing for recognition as having the best gourmet grilled cheese sandwich, which comes with “The Big Cheese" award.
“It sparks ideas, it sparks creativity,” said Thomson. “And, I think, timing is key with what we have been through the last two years of the pandemic.”
Participating locations could decide whether they wanted to offer their grilled cheese special for take-out or dine-in, at $12 or $17, respectively.
Thomson wanted to place a set price on the sandwiches to level the playing field across the region. The option to dine-in or take-out allows a number of different businesses to get involved and be creative, and offers a safe alternative for community members who are not yet comfortable dining in a restaurant.
The only rules were that the businesses had to offer the special for the whole month and had to work at the set price. And of course, it had to be some variation of a grilled cheese sandwich.
They also had to come up with a unique name to go along with their offering.
“Otherwise, they could do really whatever they want within that,” said Thomson. “Some people are really taking it and making it their own.”
Options range from The Cheese Galllery’s ‘Ooh La La,’ made with French raclette, to ‘Bruce’s Big Dipper’ at Bruce Wine Bar and the ‘Wine & Cheese’ at Georgian Hills Vineyards. VeganCo is even offering a vegan option in collaboration with the Collingwood Brewery.
Ballots will be available at each location for customers to rank each sandwich on a cheese-deliciousness scale, and “The Big Cheese” winner will be named at the end of the month.
Every ballot is also entered into a weekly draw for customers to win prizes from participating restaurants.
“I am excited to see people discover different locations and have these amazing grilled cheese sandwiches and celebrate cheese,” Thomson said.
One of the cool things that Thomson said has already come out of the event is the partnerships that have been created. The Cheese Gallery is using Beaver Valley maple syrup, Georgian Hills’ grilled cheese is made on Thornbury Bakery’s sourdough bread, and the Surf Cafe is using Good Family Farm’s smoked bacon.
“You really get that, ‘let’s work together, let’s partner, high tides lift all boats’ mentality,” she said.
The event has also been supported by funding from the Town of The Blue Mountains Economic Development and mycollingwood.ca as a media sponsor.
Thomson hopes the event will become an annual affair and grow across the region, and she already has three more businesses that are interested in participating next year.
“I thought grilled cheese in April would be amazing because April is a crappy month with not a lot to do,” said Thomson. “What this does is move people around the area and into different locations during this time.”
The Cheese Gallery also plans to use its TikTok following to highlight the grilled cheese sandwich special being offered at each location to bring more people to the region.
“That’s really what this is all about,” said Thomson. “Celebrating this region, working together, offering some really creative, fun food choices for people to go experience.”