Oozefest: Exploring OC’s Cheesy Goodness

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by Kristi Doan

From small parking lots wrapped around buildings to a chunk of MainPlace Mall’s parking lot in Santa Ana, nearly a thousand cheese lovers, including myself, rejoiced on October 14 at Foodbeast’s third annual cheesy food festival, Oozefest, to consume exclusive cheese-centric creations.

Foodbeast, a popular Santa Ana-based blog known for their bizarre food creations and news, teased fans for months on what more than 30 vendors would bring to the table to win this year’s coveted Oozefest award.

“We wanted to create an event where it’s all you can consume, so it’s all you can eat, all you can drink,” said Geoffrey Kutnick, the co-founder of Foodbeast.com in an interview with CBS Los Angeles.

According to Oozefest’s site, “a portion of every ticket sale goes to support Inspire Artistic Minds. This is a charitable organization that provides scholarships to people in the hospitality industry, to attend events or experiences that will inspire them.”

Kutnick said Foodbeast created the event for millennials to share unique creations on social media.

I saw these creations, and that led me to fulfill a dream — getting cheese wasted.

Grease filled the air as I approached a crowd of orange and yellow tents. I knew then that the end result would be clogged arteries. This was a dream venture where every booth had to be visited.

As a firm believer in the saying “there’s no such thing as too much cheese,” I experienced a fantasy filled with stringy, gooey goodness. I was surrounded by cheese galore. Even the strangest things, like cheddar cheese ice cream by Euro Cafe, did not faze me but rather enticed me.

Creativity was present at every booth and packed punches of flavor. Cheese has a pungent taste and distinct texture that is incredibly noticeable, and each booth balanced other elements such as salty, sweet or spicy in their dishes.

Bruxie, known for its chicken and waffle sandwich, created a seasoned waffle cone filled with spicy buffalo macaroni and cheese and topped with famous spicy fried chicken tenders and buffalo cheese. Now that’s a winner.

A half-hour passed, and as I was collecting my consciousness from a food coma, I spotted some famous competitive eating YouTubers in the crowd. Freak Eating and Wreckless Eating have competed at Oozefest before.

Every year, Foodbeast hosts a grilled cheese eating competition on stage, and this year the competition was sponsored by King’s Hawaiian. Awarded to the victor is a customized King’s Hawaiian trophy: a cheese sculpture  that, unfortunately for the cheese fanatics, is fake.

Freak Eating, otherwise known as Naader Reda, has more than 100,000 subscribers on YouTube. Wreckless Eating, a group with more than 600,000 subscribers, sent Sean Brotherton to compete against Reda. Brotherton lost to Reda in last year’s contest.

This year, however, Reda was victorious. After ten minutes of binge eating a whopping 26 grilled cheeses dipped in a pitcher of tomato soup, Reda ended with the same face he started with: completely calm but smothered in grease. The other competitors did not come close to 26; second place was 21.

“Wow, that was crazy,” said Reda. “I didn’t think I would get to 26. I was going for 20.”

Even after the over-consumption of grilled cheese sandwiches, he stated that he would still partake in the glory of Oozefest for the rest of the day.

“I love cheese,” said Reda. “Oozefest doesn’t happen all the time, so you got to take advantage of your time when the time comes.”

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