Comfort food stand
Q. How are things going at the Pru?
A. We opened about two weeks ago now. It’s been great. We’re a young company, just under two years old, and the location is a turning point. We’ve redefined our visual look, and we’re evolving every single day.
Q. What began your love affair with grilled cheese?
A. I’ve always been a cheese fanatic. When I was young, my parents would try to make me eat my vegetables, and the only way they could get me to was to cover it with cheese. When I was in college, I basically survived on ramen and grilled cheese. Even now, I probably have grilled cheese every day. But I enjoy good food. It doesn’t have to be fancy, but it’s got to be good. So I always tried to make a simple sandwich with the best ingredients.
Q. When did you go from loving grilled cheese to thinking you could be an entrepreneur?
A. In the past, whenever I would have friends or family over, I’d say “Hey, you want a grilled cheese?’’ They’d always say “This is really great.’’ People kept suggesting, “Michael, why don’t you try selling grilled cheese?’’ But at that time, I had no money, so it was sort of a pipe dream. In grad school, I found some investors, and now Cheeseboy is off to the races.
Q. Is there a point that it stops being “grilled cheese’’ and just starts being a sandwich with cheese?
A. We know that a lot of grilled cheese places are really making Reubens, or turkey sandwiches. We do have a grilled cheese with turkey and spinach. But it’s all in the proportions. What we sell is most definitely a grilled cheese with turkey and spinach, not a turkey sandwich with cheese. You can add any of our 11 toppings. We’ve tried to find the most popular items without getting too fancy. We are not a gourmet grilled cheese shop. We are an everyday, homemade grilled cheese operation.
Q. Most people associate grilled cheese with childhood. What keeps us loving grilled cheese deep into adulthood?
A. There was a recent study by the NPD Group that said more than 2 billion grilled cheese sandwiches are made every year. It’s a mix of nostalgia and classic comfort food. It’s something that tastes good. You can really indulge. But you can also have a healthy grilled cheese, or at least as healthy as possible. It’s just an all around great comfort food.
Q. Is grilled cheese and tomato soup the best food combo?
A. It’s one of the most perfect culinary marriages out there. What it is about it, though, is hard to say. I think that they’re both hot foods that are comforting. We have a phrase at Cheeseboy: “Like a hug for your stomach.’’ It tastes good, it’s very flavorful, but it’s not overwhelmingly heavy. A Philly cheesesteak tastes good. A hamburger tastes good. Grilled cheese and tomato soup tastes good, but it’s not too much.
Q. What’s your idea of a perfect grilled cheese sandwich?
A. I surprise my team every day because I’m always ordering something different. I’m not discriminatory in my love for grilled cheese. There’s not one particular cheese or bread. I’ll get into phases for a couple weeks where I’ll be into one sandwich. I test every single ingredient. I would never serve anything that doesn’t taste amazing to me.
Interview has been edited and condensed. Steve Miller can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.