Interview with National Grilled Cheese Competition Winner Michael Davidson – FTE Episode 095

grilled cheese tower

Yummy tower of grilled cheese from The GrilledCheezGuy.

On today’s podcast we sit down with Michael Davidson, better known as The GrilledCheezGuy around San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. Before Davidson created his cheesy alter-ego, he was a research scientist at a large company. That was until one day he saw an advertisement for a grilled cheese making competition being held at a local bar and thought it would be fun to enter the little cooking contest. He may not have realized it at the time, but this single event  would change the direction of Davidson’s life forever.

Davidson did not end up winning the first grilled cheese competition. But as fate would seemingly have it, a regional grilled cheese making competition came back to the same bar the following year. With additional cooking experience under his belt, Davidson won the competition on his second attempt. Part of the prize was the ability to be able to compete in the national grilled cheese cooking competition, which he also won later that year.

After winning this competition he started hustling on the streets of Oakland, California, to bring his food to the world. Initially Davidson used minimum viable cooking equipment–a small burner–to get his venture off the ground. Doing these little street events helped get the GrilledCheezGuy name out there locally and soon he was being asked to do events, including a wedding in San Francisco park for between 200 – 300 people. Davidson even added a splash of creativity by serving a grilled cheese wedding cake (yes it is a thing!) to attendees.

Tune in to today’s episode to learn how Davidson has continued to grow his business from literally nothing into a budding grilled cheese empire of his own with multiple catering vans, a commissary, and even the possibility of a storefront in the works.

grilled cheese guy

What You’ll Learn

  • How to win in the world of competitive grilled cheese.
  • How Davidson raised capital for his first grilled cheese van with help from Kiva.
  • The secret to making a perfect grilled cheese sandwich.
  • Reasons cheese, bread, and butter can combine to make an amazing meal.
  • The strategic and long-term goals of The GrilledCheezGuy.
  • How a brick can help you make a better grilled cheese sandwich.
  • How to grow a mobile food brand.

Quotes from the Show

It chose me. I did not choose it. – Michael Davidson on the start of his business journey. 

It’s those little things you have to do to make a difference. Otherwise you have to realize your just some grilled cheese guy and anyone can make a grilled cheese at home. You kind of have to do that and more. – Davidson on operating a successful food business. 

I really did start from the absolute bottom with not much and it didn’t require that much money to start at the beginning. And so at each level I’ve been a fortunate enough and I guess savvy enough to be able to afford each next level. – Davidson on growing a business. 

Mentioned in the Show

The GrilledCheezGuy – The is the official website of Michael Davidson’s business. As luck may have it, just last week The GrilledCheezGuy actually served his sandwiches at his old company to many of his former colleagues and fellow research scientists bringing his story full circle in a way. Visit the website to learn more about booking The GrilledCheezGuy for your event or to view mouth-watering grilled cheese photos.

Kiva – Michael Davidson got access to the capital he needed to grow his business with help from a no-interest loan from Kiva. In Michael’s case, he was able to acquire a Ford Transit for his business. You can learn more about the process on how to get a loan through Kiva for your business here.

Square – This is the payment processor used by Michael Davidson for his business.

The Grilled Cheese Invitational – One of the competitions that Michael has won in the past. Yes… There really are very serious grilled cheese cooking competitions!

Acme Bread – San Francisco based bread company that was founded in 1983. This is the bread used by The GrilledCheezGuy.