Our 12th Annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown

In a battle of buttery brilliance, the Toad community once again left it on the griddle at our annual Grilled Cheese Smackdown. While some opted for classic cheddar, others ventured into uncharted cheesiness with Gruyere, brie, and mozzarella. Eyes watered as onions sizzled alongside jalapeños and bacon… then watered again as we bit into the culinary creations.

Since 2013, this competition has been a quest for the perfect blend of gooey cheese and golden-brown bread with the hopes of winning the coveted Golden Spatula. It’s also a great excuse to bring the Toad team, friends, family, and community members together for some delicious fun – and to raise money for our local friends at the Organic Soup Kitchen

Last year, UCSB Environmental Markets Lab took first place with fresh sourdough, a kick of spice, and some savory bacon. But this year saw a new winner with a new savory secret: caramelized onions. Freedom 4 Youth's The French Onionator excelled grilled cheese greatness, winning them first place and the Peoples' Choice Award (a rare feat!). 

The Winning Recipe: The French Onionator

The French Onionater was made with love from a blend of 3 types of Gruyere cheese, sweet onions caramelized in butter, crispy pancetta, and au jus for dipping. The au jus was made from beef bone broth and more caramelized onions. The sandwich was built on French bread and griddled in a cast iron skillet with mayo for a golden crispy exterior. 

Freedom 4 Youth was founded in 2008 to empower people within and beyond the juvenile justice system. Since their start, they have built community through mentorships, direct service efforts, community work, and advocacy. In 2019, they opened their Santa Barbara Center and have grown exponentially, serving 220+ individuals every year (nearly all of whom have been directly impacted by the criminal legal system).

Honorable mention: Jenny from the Toad Operations Team won the well-deserved Most Immersive Experience award for her Hawaiian-themed Spamtastic Cheesy Melt.

Big congrats on their grilled cheese goodness, and we can’t wait to see what’s sizzling at the smackdown next year.