Philadelphia, PA - Filling out your bracket for basketball is easy. Whoever can get the ball through their basket more times than the other team, wins. The Cheesesteak's much more complex.
What is the difference between a good cheesesteak and a great cheesesteak? Brotherly Love. Now you know why we are called the City of Brotherly Love. A good grill person applying the proper amount of brotherly love can make a good cheesesteak great. Conversely, a great grill person having a bad day could make a great cheesesteak not so great.
Every Cheesesteak is a roll, meat, and cheese. For the adventure, I always got fried onions and mushrooms. Let's look at these individually. I like sports analogies so I will use a football team to describe a cheesesteak. I think of that long-roll as the defense, the meat as the offense, cheese is special teams and the extras are the coach.
The Roll. Defense wins championships. It doesn't have to be flashing. It doesn't have to be sexy. It is awesome when it returns an interception for a touchdown but really it just needs to do its job and not lose the game for you. There are sexy rolls. A nice sesame seeded roll can add a lot to a cheesesteak. A roll with too much sex appeal can steal the attention from the other parts of the cheesesteak and that's a bad thing. What we're looking for is a good solid roll that complements the rest of the team.
The Meat. The offense gets most of the headlines and has to score. You can have an offense that runs a lot of plays and gains a lot of yards but if they are not scoring points you will not win the game. You need a good amount of meat with good taste. Seasoning is a good topic for debate. Overseasoning can ruin the taste of the meat. Seasoning is also a very personal taste. The grill person has to bring out the meat’s flavor without over seasoning it.
Footnote; in the old days, the meat would come from the butcher. The sandwich shop would slice the meat. The sliced meat would be grilled and then put onto the roll. Some of the shops in the city still serve their cheesesteaks with the flat steak strips (some people call them ribbons) versus the suburbs where almost all of the sandwich shops chop the steak meat up while it is grilling.
The Cheese. Just like special teams, I think cheese is the most overlooked and underappreciated part of the cheesesteak. A perfectly timed and executed trick play on special teams can change the course of a game. A great house-made cheese sauce, a great amount of cheese or cheese perfectly melted through the entire cheesesteak can change the complexion of an ordinary cheesesteak. Unfortunately, most places leave you wanting more cheese.
The Extras. Fried onions and, for me, mushrooms. A great roll, meat, and cheese can make mediocre fried onions and canned mushrooms taste good. Perfectly caramelized onions and expertly sauteed mushrooms are wasted on a stale roll, fatty meat, and very little cheese. Great coaches need great players.
The Grillperson is GM. The grill person has to get the individual parts to work together. Great teams have great chemistry. Teams practice together and then they go play the game. The grill is the cheesesteak’s practice field. The ingredients of the cheesesteak have to spend time together on the practice field, get to know each other and finding the perfect chemistry before they can go play a game, ie. get eaten by a customer.
I hope this helps you with your bracket!!
"I'm Jim Pappas from Philadelphia Cheesesteak Adventure. I've eaten over 550 different cheesesteaks in the last 22 months. I am hoping to use my new found Cheesesteak knowledge to help fill the void in our lives left by the canceling of the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament". - Jim Pappas