Get a taste of the gouda life – The Wordrobe meets MacKenzie Smith, creator of the globe’s biggest grilled cheese blog GrilledCheeseSocial.com and executive chef at the Black Dolphin Inn in Florida
What inspired you to start the blog?
I was a single (totally broke) chick going to grad school in New York City and was basically living off of grilled cheese sandwiches. One day in class, one of my friends told me he was starting a dessert blog and that I should do one too. He knew I loved cooking and said it could be a cool way to document my recipes.
This was at the time when I literally had to google what a “blog” was. After about a week of learning how to build a blog and debating what the focus would be – I decided it should be all about the grilled cheese sandwich! Not only is it one of American’s most nostalgic comfort food dishes, but it was also something that was totally transformable and easy enough that anyone could do it.
Can you remember your first grilled cheese sandwich?
Oh yes, I remember sitting at my Meme’s table, eating the classic American grilled cheese with white bread, cheddar and salty butter as a young kid… but I also remember the first time my friend’s mom made me a non-traditional grilled cheese with cream cheese and Nutella. My mind was blown!
Do you have any culinary role models?
Absolutely. I adore Aarti Sequeira, Colu Henry, Cara Nicoletti, Julia Turshen, Alison Roman, and of course, the OG Julia Child along with many more female chefs that are changing the food industry.
What’s your favourite type of cheese?
That’s the hardest question I ever get asked! Picking a favourite cheese is like asking a mother to pick their favourite child – it hurts my heart! But, if I had to eat one cheese every day for the rest of my life, it would probably be gorgonzola dolce because it’s just so funky, delicious, and versatile.
What’s been your favourite career highlight so far?
The highlight of my career has definitely been winning the cheese competition show on the Food Network which then led to me hosting 15 episodes for the Food Network’s Facebook Live which went out to almost 30 million of their followers.
When I won the show, I used the winnings to take my entire family to Europe and to my surprise, my then-boyfriend, now-fiancé proposed to me on that trip! It was truly an amazing experience.
What keeps you inspired for new recipes?
Travelling is definitely the number 1 thing that keeps me inspired. My time in London was such an eye opener to new ingredients and flavour pairings. I loved the multicultural-ness of the city and even though I’ve only been back a few days, I feel like all the food I’ve cooked has been a play on the delicious dishes we had abroad.
What makes an excellent grilled cheese sandwich?
Hitting all the flavour and textural varieties will always make a great grilled cheese. Making sure it’s crispy, creamy, salty, sweet and of course – decadent!
Describe your cooking style in three words.
Southern, comforting, and cheesy.
What’s the foodie scene like where you live and work, in New Smyrna Beach, Florida?
I always brag about our food scene in New Smyrna Beach because unlike most small beach towns in Florida, NSB has got it going on. Not only are we surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean where we catch loads of fresh seafood, but we’re also surrounded by vast farmland which produces the best organic vegetables and fresh fruit you could ever find.
Additionally, the variety of our restaurants here is quite impressive. From Vietnamese to Greek, our family owned restaurant scene is quite the cultural melting pot.
What’s next on the cards?
I’ve got some American morning shows coming up for National Grilled Cheese Day that will be super fun, but most importantly, my first cookbook coming out this fall so that’s very exciting.