Judge The Best Grilled Cheese In SLO County

  • June 7, 2021
  • By Joshua D. Scroggin

Did you know that nearly 40 of your favorite San Luis Obispo County restaurants are having a grilled cheese throwdown where you decide the winner?

In a contest brought to you by Restorative Partners Inc., restaurants from Cayucos to Paso Robles to Arroyo Grande and nearly everywhere in between are each offering their unique takes on grilled cheese sandwiches in a bid to bring home a trio of tasty titles.

There’s “Best Grilled Cheese,” “Most Ooey Gooey” and “Best Twisted.” 

Anytime between now and the end of June, visit as many of the restaurants listed here as you can, then head over to the contest website to cast votes for your favorite. You’ll probably want to try more than a few for comparison’s sake.

The 2021 SLO Grilled Cheese Festival was born from a desire by Restorative Partners to help jump-start the rebounding local restaurant industry as well as to spread awareness of its own mission: to provide healing services and support to incarcerated individuals as they re-enter the San Luis Obispo County community. Originally launched in 2019, the Festival began as a cook-off, with organizations sending their top chef teams to prepare their best grilled cheese dishes on the spot. However, with the COVID-19 pandemic putting in-person events on hold, Restorative Partners had to alter its approach. That’s when the nonprofit got local restaurants involved, which is only appropriate considering its ties to the industry serve as a means to help get its clients back on solid ground.

Two years ago, Restorative Partners received a grant to train clients for culinary careers. The program had already assisted 15 people with job placement at local establishments when the pandemic hit and the industry began to shed jobs as restaurants were forced to cut back through stay-at-home mandates and capacity limits. Helping to get restaurants full again will definitely help the organization’s job placement effort.

“Our clients face barriers,” said Brandee Brown-Pruett, Operations Director for Restorative Partners. “You get out of prison. You might not have your birth certificate. You’ve got to figure out how to get a job, a driver’s license, social security card, how to be a contributing member of society. That’s what our staff really helps with. Our staff works with them through case management to overcome those barriers and get access to employment.”

Among Restorative Partners’ many programs, the organization also runs five sober living homes throughout the county. On any given night, there are 50 men and women staying in the homes. A typical stay ranges from 3 to 6 months. That’s in addition to substance abuse treatment services, counselling and a very successful mentorship program among its unique wraparound services. Brown-Pruett said the recidivism rate for those who participate in the mentorship program is just 12.5 percent while overall national rates are close to 60 percent.

It’s a program that depends on volunteers willing to help support a person through regular meetings, perhaps sharing a skill and maintaining a commitment to helping them navigate back into the community. Those interested in volunteering in the mentorship or other programs and services can visit the Restorative Partners website to apply. The organization also puts on a community workshop to introduce potential volunteers to the opportunities available.

As for fundraising, all proceeds from the SLO Grilled Cheese Festival are meant to stay with the restaurants. Brown-Pruett said some of the restaurants have pledged to donate a portion of their profit to Restorative Partners, but the event is mainly an altruistic endeavor with the added benefits of spreading the gospel of grilled cheese and word of mouth about the organization.

Local businesses have also stepped up to donate, including the CoastHills Credit Union Community Action Sponsorship Program, which delivered $500 for the event. The CoastHills sponsorship program is designed to help fund local nonprofits, who may apply for up to $500 of support per organization per year at the Credit Union’s website.

If you’re interested in donating to Restorative Partners, head to the SLO Grilled Cheese Festival website, where you can pledge support online. 

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