Without delving into the melting pot of poor puns, and certainly avoiding the buttered up facts from the media kit, it’s safe to say that Friday’s Toronto Grilled Cheese Festival was a catastrophic flop. As over 2,250 hangry attendees lined up both inside and outside of Roy Thompson Hall, the biggest bite of the night came out of the egos of organizer Joylister.
Massive mainstream and social media backlash has descended upon the two young co-creators of the company, Melissa Chien and Seungchan Lee, since Friday’s debacle. After experiencing similar fallout from their oversold Poutine Fest last year, there was little foresight that went into the planning of their latest attempt. For the $40 ticket price, patrons were promised all-you-can-eat grilled cheese, gourmet soup, and three 4 oz. craft beer samples – perhaps the price would have been palatable if the promise was delivered.
A mere 10 vendors were expected to serve the manifold mounts. Lineups grew into the hundreds and attendees waited two to three hours for small crosscuts of grilled cheese. Soup samples ran dry in the earlier parts of the evening. The good nature of some of the beer partners, like the fine folks at Creemore Springs (and their desire to dole out more liberal samplings) was the only thing that kept my crew and I from becoming ornery.
Amidst the irked insults that echoed about the room – no one was pleased – as you squeezed by the vendors’ tables it was apparent that they’d at least put in their best efforts.
The Leslieville Cheese Market came prepared with 8 grills to pump out their Hawaiian Steak (rye bread, Spam, Swiss cheese, coleslaw, green onions, Hungarian smoked paprika spread) and Wafella (gluten free waffles, coconut gouda, Nutella) sandwiches. Unfortunately, there were no backup generators and limited power supplies could only power two grills at a time. That was after they lay dormant for the first hour of service due to constant power shorting.
Gorilla Cheese were forced to run prepared platters of their Lumberjack (cheddar, bacon, sliced Granny Smith apple, maple syrup, on white bread) and vegetarian-friendly Zesty Mordant (cheddar, asiago, Doritos, jalapenos) from their truck parked outside.
The biggest champions of customer service were Bathurst Street’s Cheesewerks, as they handed out cheese samples and bowls of their cheddar and ale soup while people anxiously awaited a bite of their Zurich (Gun’s Hill 5 Brothers Gouda/Swiss, honey-roasted figs, green apple), and signature Beijing sammys (Balderson aged Cheddar, asiago, Chinese BBQ pork, green onion, hoisin sauce). They also took to Twitter immediately, inviting ticket holders to come by the shop the following day for a free sandwich – full sized.
For what it’s worth, if you weren’t one of the many that abandoned the event all together and managed to bear the lines, the offerings were entirely on point. Unfortunately, a savoury bite of grilled cheese was hardly enough to mask the bitter taste of the event as a whole.
If you went to the Grilled Cheese Festival, let us know what you thought about the event in the comments below or tweet us @ViewTheVibe.