The Perfect Grilled Cheese

I’ve been writing a lot about work for the past year. Rightfully so, as my work life has consumed about 60 hours of my week for the past 18 months.

The past few months have been quite the whirlwind: I applied and got into my first choice graduate program, turned in my two-weeks’ notice, and then was offered a full-time job as a digital Multimedia Editor. Within just a matter of a week or so, I made the decision to flip my career plan. In all actuality, I was able to skip the whole graduate school step (for the time being, anyway). You can see a little bit about me and my new job here.

My 60 hour weeks haven’t ended, as I still maintain a good amount of freelance work – the remnants of how I overcompensated for not being able to actually be a designer while working my former job. But I can finally say that I’m happy with the direction my career is going in. And that means that you’ll get to read about things other than the  less than ideal life outlook that comes with being frustrated for the better half of your day.

I distinctly remember my first career-related conversation with my dad, which took place at least fifteen years ago. I was working on some school art project – I want to say I was attempting to draw people running. He demonstrated some simple illustration techniques that made him brilliant beyond the average ten-year old’s belief. He showed me how to start with stick figures where a person’s bones would be, and to draw their muscles around the figures. He told me that being artistic runs in our family, and that when he was younger, he wanted to be an artist.

When I asked him why he didn’t work as an artist, he told me that not everyone can do exactly what they want to do.  Art is fun, but it doesn’t make any money.  So he went to college, got a job in business, and learned to love what he did.

The topic came up again when I was getting ready for college.  I was really into graphic design, and even went to some art school open houses, but the same type of conversation happened again. I majored in International Development and Arabic.

And you know what?  I don’t hate that I did.  Sure, I went to college, studied something that I loved, and eventually decided that the career path wasn’t for me.  It’s a common thing: to give up your hobbies, and to dedicate your life to something that you may or may not be passionate about.  After all, many people are struggling simply to have a job. One by one, we count our blessings, and aspire for the non-physical things we do not yet have.

For the past year and a half, I was going through some serious self-doubt.  I wasn’t depressed as much as I was frustrated with everything around me.  Frustrated, because I knew exactly what my problems were, and no matter how hard I tried to fix them, nothing was quite working out.

I started perusing the creative job market one year ago.  Twenty-three interviews, two portfolio redesigns, two job offers, and one graduate-school-withdrawal-letter later, I feel like a completely different person.

I’ll be honest. If I wasn’t as unhappy as I was with my options a year ago, I probably never would have gotten my shit together as a designer.  This was also no secret to my office, which didn’t help solve my immediate problems, but in turn, helped me reassess what I wanted to do with my life. When I hated the job before my last job, I was willing to take any job – any ::breathe:: job – just to get out.  When I decided to leave my most recent job, I knew exactly what I was looking for. For the first time in my life, I was looking for a good match, and not just an escape.

And when I thought all hope was lost, I found myself with a job that is the opposite of what normally sends me running for the door. I work long hours on a team of experts. They love implementing new ideas even more than they love ideas themselves.

What I learned was something that I’ve already known for longer than I can actually remember: luck is nothing without hard work and preparation.  That might take weeks, or years.  But if it’s worth it, you can make it happen.

As my friend Lauren said, shortly after we sprinted for a New York subway train, narrowly struggling our backpacks through the closing doors: You gotta want it.

Ladies and gentlemen – since this post follows a long and winding road of hard work and patience, I present you with the perfect grilled cheese.

Oh, also – I went to Mexico.  I’ll save that for another day’s treat.


The Perfect Grilled Cheese

The perfect grilled cheese is all about the quality of your ingredients, and all about the patience you have.  Good bread, good cheese, real butter, and the satisfaction in knowing that the perfect sandwich is well worth the wait.


Amazing sourdough bread, sliced
Unsalted butter, room temperature
Good, sharp or extra sharp cheddar cheese


Heat a medium- to large-sized skillet over a high flame for a few minutes, until the pan is hot.  You should be able to only hold your hand over the pan for a few seconds before pulling away.  Once you’re there, turn the heat down to low.  A good grilled cheese sandwich is all about the slow cook.  If you’re working on an electric stove, I’d keep the heat as low as 2 or 3.

Lightly butter both sides of each slice of bread.  In all honesty, I’ve found that frozen bread works really well for grilled cheese.  It even makes it easier for spreading the butter, and usually leaves for a nice, crisp sandwich.  But I’ve also never had issues with normal bread.

Assemble your sandwich directly on the skillet.  Bread, then generous amounts of cheese, and then bread again.

Do not flip more than once.  You can flip when the cheese has melted so much so that it pulls away from the top slice when you lift it.  The low heat is important here, because a higher  flame will burn your bread.

Each side takes about five minutes, I’d say.  The result should be golden brown slices of bread with cheese that melts into each slice from the inside.