SAY ‘CHEESE’!: Rexburg grilled cheese truck brings smiles to customers’ faces
REXBURG — The secret to a delicious melted cheese sandwich is the bread it’s melted on.
So says Bryan Maughan, owner of the Artisan Melt at 404 N. Second E. in Rexburg where the old C-A-L Ranch store was.
“Anybody can make a grilled cheese sandwich, but not anybody can bake our breads,” he said. “Our specialty is really in the breads.”
The Artisan Melt’s specialty breads include cranberry walnut, tomato basil, jalapeno, cheddar, white, wheat and rye. The breads are made fresh every day at a local bakery that Maughan declined to specify.
“It’s a recipe that evolved over seven years,” he said. “It was developed from friends of ours and together we initialized it. We added our own twist to it. It’s evolved over several years of changes.”
Maughan also emphasized that Artisan Melt sandwiches are nothing like traditional melted cheese sandwiches.
“A grilled cheese sandwich is just Wonder Bread and Kraft Singles,” Maughan said. “You put them together in a pan with a some butter and throw some cheese between the bread and hope it melts. The melt is different. It’s beyond the melt.”
The “beyond melt” is a cooking process called “caramelization” that enhances the bread’s taste, Maughan said.
“You can caramelize any cheese, but you have to have the right blend,” he said. “That’s another piece to it. I can throw any cheese on the griddle, but it’s not going to taste the same if it’s not blended in the right proportions.”
Mixing brown sugar, butter and cinnamon creates the caramelization for the apples that go on the popular Virginian sandwiches, Maughan said.
“The cheese, the glucose, the amino acids, proteins and salts create a structure that gives the sandwich the flavor,” he said. “It’s the same thing if you were to caramelize mushrooms and garlic. Throw in the butter, and the butter will sauté it. You’ll get that nice brown crisp that changes the flavor, which is why you got the flavor you got in the sandwich — a really sweet, savory one.”
The Artisan Melt serves five sandwiches: The Mediterranean, The All American, The Virginian and the Country Classic. Eventually, Maughan plans to include the Dessert Sandwich called the Flying Dutchman using cheese called Gouda.
“It’s a cheese sandwich that we’re going to be putting with chocolate and triple berry jam. It has an amazing flavor,” Maughan said.
Maughan says that customer favorites include The Cowboy and The Virginian. His busiest day is Thursday.
Maughan also plans to add soups to his menu.
“We have a whole line of soups, but we’ve only introduced the tomato basil bisque,” he said. “When the weather gets cooler, we’ll have a lot of other soups.”
The current menu list is limited for a reason, Maughan said.
“We have intentionally kept our list really short,” he said. “The reason why is because we want to be really good at what we do.”
Maughan plans to offer his sandwiches throughout the upcoming winter months.
“We’ll be open as long as people want a sandwich,” he said.
Maughan opened up shop in Rexburg in June 2017 and says that business has proven brisk. The shop is open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 5 to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturdays.
A former University of Idaho professor, Maughan decided it was time for a change and opened up his business. A cheese maker friend, who also provided him with the bread recipes, urged Maughan to do so.
“He bothered me to do this for years. He said, ‘Do it, do it, do it, do it,’ and I said ‘No, no, no, no.’ One year he insisted, so I tried it,” he said.
The Maughans started their melted cheese business at the Idaho Falls Farmers Market and later set up shop on Saturdays at the Jackson Hole Farmers Market.
“It went crazy. It was so busy,” he said. “We had lines there that were 20 to 30 minutes long. People waited a long time. I think the sandwiches are really good.”
The sandwiches were apparently so good that they motivated one Jackson Hole customer, from Wisconsin, to visit Rexburg recently just to have another one.
“He said ‘I told you I was going to come over.’ I don’t know where he came from or why he was in town, but he came specifically to eat one of these sandwiches,” Maughan said. “It was amazing. It was a huge compliment.”
Maughan said he had always wanted to be his own boss. Now that he is the boss, Maughan says he still feels stressed, but it’s unlike the type he felt as an educator.
“Being your own boss is not at all relaxing. It’s incredibly non-relaxing,” he said. “It’s a different kind of stress than it was being a professor.”
Maughan arrives at the food trailer early in the morning and gets home late at night. He has to make sure there’s enough inventory and ingredients to serve everyone who wants a sandwich. While there are stresses, he greatly enjoys watching his customers eat the food he makes.
“I love seeing people being happy. When they’re eating a sandwich I made, I love the look on people’s faces,” he said. “That’s my satisfaction — making people happy.”
For those interested in starting their own business, Maughan says that they need to find if there’s a need for what they want to offer.
“Prove your concept,” he said. “Do the numbers and make sure the math adds up. Know what your expenses are. Have a good business plan and a good proforma – that’s your projection into the future for potential growth. You have to have a real good solid foundation.”
Maughan emphasized that having a passion for a certain type of business is not the primary quality for an entrepreneur.
“I don’t have a passion for making grilled cheese sandwiches, but I think I’m dang good at it by virtue of practice,” he said.
Maughan added that a true entrepreneur is offering a service to benefit residents.
“I have a passion for making people happy,” he said. “My ego is not in my business. I think all of that is important. Being an entrepreneur, it’s not about you, it is about helping others and building community.”