Luisa Dörr for TIME

The culinary mastermind behind Chez Panisse shares her foolproof method for making a life-changing grilled cheese at home.

Zee Krstic
October 20, 2017

There are so many questions one might want to ask Alice Waters, the founder and brains behind California’s pioneering restaurant Chez Panisse: There’s her approach to wholesome dining in the modern food landscape, her devotion to a sustainable farm-to-table system, her efforts to revolutionize the way we approach food education in our nation , and she just released a new memoir, Coming to My Senses.

We had a chance to speak with Waters at length about all of the above – but we also snuck in an unusual question for a culinary genius: How do you make the perfect grilled cheese?

VIDEO: TIME Firsts 

Waters has a very specific process she adheres to for delicious grilled cheese. It all starts with her use of olive oil, not butter, to toast the bread.

She starts with whole-grain bread and grates alpine cheese directly onto the bread itself. But here’s where the mastermind throws us for an unexpected (but enticing) loop: Waters says she fries her grilled cheese in a skillet al mattone, which means "to brick" in Italian.

Photo: Hector Sanchez

Don’t start looking for a literal brick, though. Waters easily achieves this style of frying by placing another smaller iron skillet directly on top of the grilled cheese in the pan. The weight ensures that the bread is evenly crisped and the cheese melts completely through, a hack that's so simple and smart at the same time.

Flip the grilled cheese halfway through cooking time to ensure consistency all the way through, and then finish off your masterpiece like Waters does – by rubbing garlic on each side of the sandwich. Garlic bread grilled cheese, anyone?

It’s a process that’s relatively simple, but will seriously change the way you enjoy the oozy comfort food. With Waters’ advice in mind, we’re betting your grilled cheese sandwiches will taste that much better. 

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