Eric Greenspan Plates Up Grilled Cheese Restaurant

nic_eric_s3x4_alSo ever since I met chef Eric Greenspan (The Foundry on Melrose, Iron Chef) I’ve known he had a passion for grilled cheese. We met because he wanted to compete in the Grilled Cheese Invitational, and after we got him in touch with the right people he went on to sweep the awards in 2008, and then to act as celeb-chef judge in 2009. And now, the master of the cheesy gooey sammy is planning to launch…yes…a grilled cheese restaurant.

When Merill Schindler announced that restaurant as one of 2010’s most anticipated foodie happenings, I knew I had to ask Eric just what was up. Here’s the info, right from the grilling-master’s mouth. Of course, details of the resto haven’t been finalized yet, but here’s what he was able to report thus far.

LMK: What is this new restaurant going to be?

EG: A quick serve restaurant. Not fast food but a real casual concept: sandwiches, soups, salads, seltser drinks. Real quick, real affordable–out the door for ten to twelve bucks. Something fun and chef driven.

LMK: And where will it be?

EG: We haven’t locked it up but we’re in the process of negotiating next door to The Foundry [on Melrose].

LMK: What made you decide, “Grilled cheese”?

EG: Since [The Foundry] opened, our grilled cheese sandwich has been a real big hit, and when we won the Grilled Cheese Invitational it got even bigger, more talked about. So obviously it made sense ‘cause it’s our most popular item in the restaurant. Also a grilled cheese is comfortable, it’s familiar, it’s quick. It’s typically not…

…fancy, which really makes it intriguing for this kinda concept. For something cheap & quick, people are looking f0or something comfortable they understand. For me it’s exciting when you go to the Grilled Cheese Invitational and you see all the different things everybody’s doing–it’s a great platform for creativity.

LMK: Any word on the menu?

EG: We’re gonna feature the champ, the one we’ve always been doing & which won the Grilled Cheese Invitational [The Foundry’s famed short-ribs-and-taleggio on raisin bread with a piquant apricot-caper schmear]. We’ve been working on one that’s a play on chicken wings, bleu cheese, celery and carrot slaw on rye bread with a spicy sauce; we’ve got a medianoche pressed sandwich with pork and Swiss cheese on French bread. We’re looking forward to playing around & altering them a lot, with a featured sandwich every month, microseasonal, and some great artisan cheeses being made in America; and a “Make Your Own” option for people who can’t decide. Like at The Foundry, it’s gonna constantly be changing. For me that’s what excites me about food: the constant ability to innovate & create.

LMK: Heidi Gibson, who’s won several Grilled Cheese Invitationals, has inked a lease and is getting ready to open her own grilled cheese restaurant in San Francisco. Would you be open to a collaboration between SoCal & Norcal? A cheese-off?

EG: I’m always down for collaboration. Some people like competition, but for me it’s not about competition; it’s about putting your best food forward. The cool thing about the GCI is the–dare I say–grilled cheese community? I would love to team up with her.

LMK: Any final words?

EG: I’m excited to do something that’s accessible, something that people can come in and eat every day. You don’t see that many fancy-schmancy chefs doing fast food stuff, but for me its exciting. Like, anything you can do with a short rib, you can do with a hamburger. It’s fun to try out something new and lend all that training & experience to something that’s quick and easy.