You know how there are certain movies that give you an awakening? For me, one of those films was the 2014 Jon Favreau movie “Chef”. Quite honestly, Chef was the foodie’s bible: it re-sparked the food truck craze and introduced cubanos into the mainstream gastronomic consciousness. The movie had several choice food scenes that would make any mouth water, from the spontaneous “soul food” menu Jon Favreau’s character Carl created in a fit of inspiration, to the sensual aglio e olio scene starring Scarlett Johansson.
For me, however, it was that grilled cheese that Carl makes for his son Percy that really got to me.
From the sizzling of the oil and butter as it comes into contact with the bread, to the satisfying crunch the sandwich made when it was cut in half was so addicting to watch. And Holy Mother of Gouda, that glorious cheese melt made me feel things I didn’t think was possible to feel about food.
So I set out to replicate this scene and create the perfect grilled cheese sandwich that would have the same effect as Chef’s version. Apparently, the key to a damn good grilled cheese are the following: three cheeses, butter, olive oil and patience.
As seen in Chef, Jon Favreau uses a classic three-cheese combo. As to what cheeses you can use is really up to your imagination, but grilled cheese experts will tell you to use (1), a “base cheese” that provides the main flavor, like cheddar; (2) a sharp cheese to provide contrast in flavor; and (3), a super-melty cheese for that IG-worthy cheese pull.
For my version, I used the following: orange cheddar for my base cheese; pepper jack for my sharp cheese; and mozzarella for my super-melty cheese.
Was it cost-effective? Probably not, but as you’ll see later on, a restaurant-quality grilled cheese is a true indulgence. It’s not exactly something you’d make every single day, but a comforting treat you reserve for yourself after the end of a long week.
Still, here’s a budget-friendly alternative especially for those spontaneous late-night snacks: Pinoy cheddar cheese for that nostalgic taste, leftover queso de bola for the sharp flavor, and quick-melt cheese for that melty quality. Chances are that you have these stocked in your pantry with the holiday season closing in.
Meanwhile, as butter and olive oil together may seem excessive, Roy Choi, the Korean-American chef who served as the consultant for the movie, revealed behind the scenes that it helps achieve the perfect crisp without a burnt flavor as olive oil has a higher smoking point than butter.
And while Choi also recommended using sourdough for the bread, I find that the good old “tasty” white bread works just as well. Just make sure that the bread isn’t too thin, but if you’re using thinner slices, just reduce your cheese portions.
Also, it’s recommended to grill the slices “low and slow” in order to achieve a beautiful melt. Patience is needed in creating the perfect grilled cheese — but there’s no harm in taking a little shortcut. Deviating from the onscreen recipe, I grated the cheeses, which not only resulted in the cheeses melting evenly, it also sped up the cooking time.
Perfect Grilled Cheese Sandwich à la Chef
– orange cheddar, about 30g
– pepper jack, about 30g
– mozzarella, about 30g
– 2 bread slices, sliced 1-inch thick
– salted butter
– olive oil
- Grate your Orange Cheddar, Pepper Jack, and Mozzarella cheeses in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Take your bread slices and butter one side each. You want the butter to cover the whole slice evenly.
- Set a pan to medium heat. When it’s hot enough, drizzle some olive oil on the pan.
- Set both bread slices on the pan, buttered sides down. On the unbuttered sides, quickly place an even amount of grated cheese on each bread slices. Quickly turn the heat to low.
- Swirl the slices around the pan, placing a light pressure so the bottom sides receive an even, golden brown color.
- Once the cheeses are almost completely melted, place one slice on top of the other slice to assemble the sandwich. Continue to swirl the sandwich around the pan.
- Shortly before taking it out, flip the sandwich on the other side, still swirling it around the pan.
- Take out your grilled cheese and place it on a cutting board or on the plate. Slice your grilled cheese in half crosswise or diagonally. There should be a crunch when you cut into it.
Best served with tomato soup, potato chips, or both. Enjoy!