Cheez’d and Confuzed
March 9, 2021
By Daniel Ray, Owner
I grew up in New York and was raised Roman Catholic. However, I never found a connection with God or Catholicism. But when I met and married my wife and moved to Georgia, we realized we’re going to be raising four kids without any benefit of exposure to faith. I personally wasn’t a believer, but I definitely wanted my kids to have some kind of exposure to faith and God so they could make their own decision.
We found a Methodist church in Woodstock and started going. At first, I didn’t quite understand it. I never saw a preacher like that before. I never saw a guy standing up at a pulpit in jeans and a button down and talk about football in his sermon. The music kind of turned me off at first. I’m used to pipe organs, operatic music, and classical guitar, and I didn’t really understand the point of having a six-piece band rocking out to God. But it slowly started growing on me, and since I played guitar, they asked me to audition to fill in for someone in the band. At the end of the audition, they asked me to play every week. While auditioning, I had never felt such a close connection to God. Playing music is how I connect with God, and I loved it, and I started leading worship every week for years.
That was my mountain-top experience. I gave my life to Christ.
Vocationally, I was a restaurant manager. I owned a restaurant in Brooklyn for about seven years, but I lost it in a divorce settlement. When I lost the restaurant, I ended up going into a really dark place in my life.
The whole point in opening up a restaurant in Brooklyn was to finance medical school. I wanted to be a doctor. I thought that was a great idea, coming out of medical school with no debt. But God’s plan was different; through the restaurant and cooking experience, I realized how much I love cooking for people.
Eventually, I started something called “What’s for Dinner, Dan?” on Instagram. I had a friend who did Uber Eats, and she was telling me that she would pick up food from one subdivision and deliver it to another. People were selling food out of their house, and I said, “I can do that,” and I started, “What’s for Dinner, Dan?”
My wife was pushing me to enter the Atlanta Grilled Cheese Festival. “People love your food; I’m sure you can come up with an awesome grilled cheese. Let’s start moving forward more aggressively.” I entered it and won! It was the amateur division, because I didn’t have a restaurant backing me up, but I beat out everyone else who was there. The team needed to come up with a name, so we called ourselves “Cheez’d and Confuzed.”
I had a picture up on FB with the plaque showing I won, and a friend from Emmaus reached out to me. “I’m having a birthday party. I want a grilled cheese party. Can you come up with some other grilled cheeses?”
His party got me another party. And the pictures I posted from that party got me another party. I was averaging 2 ½ parties a month, and then the pandemic hit. I’m thinking, “I’m finished.”
Look, I’m in the hospitality business. In February, before the Pandemic, I had done a pop-up event at a place outside a restaurant in Woodstock which was hugely successful. I sold my grilled cheeses out in front of this restaurant until July. I wasn’t making crazy money, but I was making connections. One guy would eat my food and talk about it and was always promoting it. He would say, “Hey, if you need any money to make this bigger, let me know.” (Yeah, okay)
Back in October, I hit him up for money, and he gave me money! A stranger gave me money to start this venture. I don’t know this guy, and he doesn’t really know me.
I moved on to a gig with a brewery in Marietta. They invited us back 13 more times. From there, I got inspired – I’m going to go hit up some more breweries. Since then, we signed on with other breweries, wineries, and subdivisions, which is tough to do because our trailer wasn’t completely functional. Again, this was all in the midst of a pandemic, and I was being blessed with a new business – a food business – a hospitality business, of all businesses!
I had the vision of doing this as a mobile concept. I bought a 1964 Shasta Camper to keep the vibe going. The capital investor gave me the money to build out the camper. This wouldn’t have happened if God hadn’t forced my hand, and if He hadn’t got me out of my comfort zone; He knew I had the strength to come out swinging, and I did.
This has all come together in less than a year. Look at how much God has blessed me; I went in on blind faith! If you don’t listen for those signs and look for those cues, you don’t really put it all together. It’s all God’s doing. I take no credit. All I have to do is step out in faith.