The Secret To The Best Grilled Cheese, According To Chef Jernard Wells - Exclusive

If you love grilled cheese, even a mediocre sammie will not disappoint. Two slices of bread, some cheddar and melted butter: What could go wrong? Perhaps a better question is how can you make that grilled cheese so good, it wins a prize? The esteemed chef Jernard Wells believes he has the answer to that question. On October 20, he will face off on Slow Food Live against precocious 12-year-old Julian Frederick, who is co-founder and CEO of a kid cooking company called Step Stool Chef (via his website), in a playful grilled cheese cook-off, according to a press release.

In an exclusive interview with Mashed, Wells, the star of "New Soul Kitchen" revealed how he plans to win. "When we talk about cheese, that speaks my language!" he said, adding that he has a lot of practice making grilled cheese. "I guess I would have to say probably if it's just me at home and no one's around, my guilty pleasure is just a plain grilled cheese and tomato basil soup," Wells confessed. As to his strategy for the cook-off, he said what matters most is the choice of cheese. "You always want to have your nice, good cheddar. I think that's a strong key when it comes to cheeses is what cheese you have, how meltable the cheese is," Wells explained, "Because see, if you get a cheese that takes too long to melt or that doesn't quite melt, what you'll end up doing is burning your bread or making a bread too dark trying to get that proper texture that you want." Both Wells and Frederick will be using Truly Grass Fed cheese, the sponsor of the contest.

How to achieve grilled cheese perfection

So how does Jernard Wells know that his grilled cheese is prize-worthy? "It's all about the pull," he said, explaining that when sliced, that sandwich has to have exactly the right gooey stretchiness when the halves are pulled apart. To achieve this, both pieces of bread need to have adequate time on the pan, Wells added. "The other thing, one of my secrets — I guess the secret that ain't a secret, but what I like doing, also, regardless of whatever bread I use: I like searing both sides," he explained. "What I mean is, the inside of the bread and the outside. So, I started with searing my outside, and then add my cheese to that seared part — so you get that crunch, and then the creaminess and the velvety-ness of the cheese."

Regardless of who wins the contest, Wells said this cook-off will be a great opportunity to show how elevated and unique a good grilled cheese can be. "For me and Chef Julian to come together and do this, I think it speaks volumes on where we have arrived to in the culinary world, and something that's I guess as simple as a grilled cheese, how unique can you make it?" Wells said. "Because we're going to be throwing down some cool dishes!"

Watch chef Jernard Wells and Julian Frederick compete on "Say (Grilled) Cheese! A Family-Friendly Cook-off" on Slow Food Live on October 20 at 2 p.m. Eastern. The fourth season of "New Soul Kitchen" airs on October 27 on the Cleo Network.