Specialty grilled cheese is one of the hottest comfort food trends in non-commercial foodservice, with chefs coming up with their own interpretations of this 1960s invention.
Sometimes, operators leave the grilled cheese decision up to customers, like they do in the employee café at the administrative offices of Golden Living, a senior living company, in Fort Smith, Ark.
“Grilled cheese is not just a staple in our dining center; it is sometimes a special event,” says Executive Chef Mickey Sellard. “We do a grilled cheese bar with an assortment of breads and rolls, 10 to 12 cheeses, bacon, chicken sausage, bacon jam, fig preserves, sliced strawberries, sun-dried tomatoes—whatever we can think of that would create a tasty bite. Guests can have as many cheeses as they like on their creation, and we grill them in our panini press.”
Sellard adds that customers seem to enjoy trying new flavors, “and we pick up a lot of the cheeses locally, so if they try something new that they enjoy, we can [go to]the store for more.”
At Pennswood Village, a retirement community in Newtown, Pa., grilled cheese has a starring role in Sunday dinners, according to Executive Chef Steve Plescha.
“We have an assortment of panini and other grilled sandwiches on our menu,” Plescha says. “But at Sunday supper, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., along with our ever-changing seasonal menu we offer a Build Your Own Grilled Cheese special. This has been with us for more than eight years now, and it’s very popular.”
Residents are given a check-off sheet with a choice of several breads, including gluten-free, five types of cheese, and a variety of add-ons such as turkey, imported ham, applewood-smoked bacon, roasted peppers, tomatoes and onions. Residents indicate their choices on the sheet, and their sandwiches are made to order for them, Plescha says, “while they are enjoying a soup or appetizer.”