Chefs love to travel — for inspiration, to experience the cuisines of other cultures or just to get away from the heat of their own kitchens. When they return, we hit them with some questions — where'd they stay, what'd they do and WHAT DID THEY EAT?!

We're not ashamed to admit that we're fairly obsessed with creating the perfect grilled cheese here at Food Republic. That's why we were particularly excited when we got in touch with Spencer Rubin, the founder of NYC's Melt Shop, a comfort sammie shop devoted to, well, creating the perfect grilled cheese. Turns out that Rubin just returned from a stay in Wisconsin, where he learned about cheese-making, sampled over 70 cheeses and picked up on a baller grilled cheese hack. He checked in with details from his "cheese-based research trip."

Where are you just back from?
I just returned from a trip to Wisconsin. We flew in to Madison and left from Milwaukee. We covered the state nearly top to bottom and ate cheese at every stop along the way.

Business or pleasure?
The trip was intended for business, but ended up being all pleasure.

What was the highlight?
The highlight was meeting Marieke of Holland’s Family Cheese. She makes the best raw cow’s milk Gouda in the country and her story was just incredible. We hope to be carrying her product very soon at Melt Shop.  

What was the lowlight?
We stopped at a casino the last night and my free trip turned expensive very quickly. Next time, I’ll just rent a movie. Kidding. I’ll hit the casino every time.

Where did you stay and can you give us a mini review of the accommodations?
We stayed at three different hotels: Marriott Courtyard, Holiday Inn Express and the Hilton Garden Inn…they all had equally comfortable beds and equally bad coffee.  

Can you tell us about the "cheese-based research" you did?
The trip was very educational. We experienced cheese-making firsthand and met all sorts of producers, from the smallest artisans to some of the larger cheese producers in the state. We saw the process start to finish, from milking the cows all the way through to the aging process.

Did you learn any neat grilled cheese hacks you can share?
If you can get your hands on some really fresh, still warm, cheese curds, try and throw them in a grilled cheese…they stretch for miles and are just delicious.

What was the best meal you ate on the trip?
Raclette with potatoes, roasted veggies, cornichons and black pepper. It was so simple, but so good. Also, the Raclette melter they use was sick and made for a very cool dining experience.

Did you bring anything back, and if so, what?
I brought absolutely nothing back. I ate about 70 different cheeses in three days and needed a break!

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