toronto grilled cheese fest

Toronto grilled cheese festival wasn't so Gouda

A couple thousand Torontonians are seriously cheesed off today thanks to what might go down as the worst run food event in Toronto's history. Last night's Toronto Grilled Cheese Festival brought more than 2,000 ticket holders to Roy Thomson Hall for what organizers promised would be a feast for the eyes, mouth and stomach.

Give Joylister credit. The seven month old company founded by a former investment analyst and marketing manager managed to convince a lot of people to fork over $40 for the promise of all-you-can-eat grilled cheese sandwiches, gourmet soup, and 3 beer samples. What they failed to tell ticket buyers, however, is that they'd only arranged for their 10 sandwich vendors to produce what would amount to a quarter sandwich sample per person so either way you slice it nobody was going to get much more than a couple full sandwiches each.

But lack of food was only part of the problem. While the CBC reported last night the event was oversold by 700 tickets, Joylister took to Facebook early this morning to clarify this wasn't the case. The problem, they say, was a result of power issues and the inability of the vendors to use their grills to cook up sandwiches fast enough.

Attendees aren't buying it and have taken to both Twitter and Joylister's Facebook page to complain and demand refunds. Then, early this afternoon Joylister deleted their previous Facebook post (and the large comment thread attached to it), apologized and took full responsibility for the situation but failed to provide any meaningful explanation or refund policy.

We reached out to Joylister co-founder Melissa Chien to get some of our own questions answered but she emailed back failing to address most of them and simply re-worded the response posted to Facebook.

What we do know is that, in the words of attendee Meesha Tanna, the place was "a total zoo." Frank Lemire said when he got there at 7:45pm "the line was stretched around the block onto King like it was a TIFF premiere." While vendors did their best to keep up with demand, their enthusiasm couldn't overcome the logistical challenges, line cutters and general feeling of disgruntled-ness that permeated the event.

Vendors like Gorilla Cheese were informed that 2,250 tickets had been sold to the event and were paid by Joylister to prepare 560 full sandwiches each (although some vendors offered two kinds). Most sandwiches were gone by 9pm and at least half of the four soup vendors sold out before 8pm. Beer lines were shorter but the samples provided were "tiny" and "warm" according to Tran.

Because of the electrical issues, Gorilla Cheese had to run platters of sandwiches from their truck parked outside where staff prepped. Cheesewerks tweeted they'd offer a free sandwich at their restaurant today to anyone who came in with a Grilled Cheese Fest ticket.

Hila Sharif finally got into the event after a 40 minute wait (did we mention it was freezing outside?). In Sharif's words "coat check was full and lines were so long I didn't know what I was waiting in line for. About 45 minutes into waiting in line, the only grilled cheese sandwiches I saw were in the hands of volunteers wearing Joylister shirts. At the end of a 50 minute line I got about a quarter of a sandwich and gave up. No management or anyone accountable to be found, despite requests and a long wait."

Photo by Janet Kwan on Instagram


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