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Three Vancouver Island Chefs Give us Their Version of the Ubiquitous Grilled Cheese

Three Vancouver Island Chefs Give us Their Version of the Ubiquitous Grilled Cheese

Melting cheese between two slices of grilled bread—has there been a better invention since the literal invention of sliced bread? The grilled cheese has come a long way from its processed-cheddar-and-Wonder-Bread origins. Now it’s positively gourmet, showing up on menus at restaurants and even getting its own dedicated food trucks.

The basic components are simple but there are myriad ways to customize and elevate this beloved comfort-food staple. We enlisted the talents of three Vancouver Island chefs to put their personal Island spins on the classic, and what they came up with is nothing short of a Netflix special. Gluten-free, dairy-deniers, you might want to look away… 

Grilled Grape Leaf-wrapped Cheese with Fresh Herbs and Sourdough

Who: Chef Lisa Ahier, Sobo Restaurant, Tofino

Vancouver Island ingredients she’s using: “I learned this technique [wrapping cheese in grape leaves] from my mentor Melissa Kelly at the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company in New York and have adapted it to feature Vancouver Island cheese. Little Qualicum Cheeseworks’ Fromage Frais is a West Coast twist on traditional European quark.”

What she’s drinking with it: Unsworth Rosé; it’s a vibrant wine that features wild strawberries and delicate dried herbs with pronounced mineralogy. This dry, Provencal-style Rosé is wonderful by itself and loves to be paired with Mediterranean fare.”


– 2–3 grape leaves (usually found in a jar at specialty food stores; look for the Yergat brand from California)
– 4 oz. Little Qualicum Cheeseworks Fromage Frais
– 1–2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh herbs (parsley, thyme, chervil, basil, or oregano will all do)
– Sprinkle of salt and cracked black pepper
– 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
– 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar
– 2 slices sourdough or artisan levain bread


In a small bowl, combine cheese, herbs, and salt. Place the grape leaves vein side up. Depending on the size, two leaves may be enough, but use three if they’re small. Mould the cheese into a disc resembling the size and shape of a hockey puck. Wrap up the grape leaves to enclose the cheese. (The idea is to hold the cheese in without it spilling out through the seams).

Use a lightly oiled open-flame grill or a grill pan on the stove. On medium heat, grill the grape leaf-wrapped cheese, folded side down. When the leaves start to brown, gently turn over and cook for another minute or two. The cheese will melt very quickly and start to seep out of the seams, so bundle carefully and be gentle while turning. Serve warm with grilled or toasted bread (grilled bread is preferred).

Gently open the cheese bundle, crack a little pepper over the top and add a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Spread on bread or use as a dip for fruit. If you’re making this recipe for a crowd, you can wrap the leaves in advance and drizzle them with olive oil to keep them moist. They will last for a week in an airtight container in the fridge.

Duck Confit and Delice de Bourgogne Triple Cream Brie Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Who: Chef Richard Benson, Ocean7 Restaurant and Aqua Bistro & Wine Bar at Kingfisher Oceanside Resort and Spa, Courtenay

Vancouver Island ingredients he’s using: “Organic arugula from Island of Eden Farms, house-made brioche from Ocean7 Restaurant and Vancouver Island duck thigh.”

What he’s drinking with it: “This is a recipe for our Smokey the Pear Sour. Mix a smoky rye whiskey (at the resort, this cocktail features house-smoked rye whiskey from Kingfisher’s Julie Ferris), with pear reduction, lemon, egg white, and brandied cherries.”


– 2 slices brioche bread
– 2 Tbsp. of duck confit
– 3 oz. Delice de Bourgogne triple cream brie
– Handful of Island of Eden Farms arugula
– Dollop of black truffle butter
– 1 Tbsp. of truffle aioli


Preheat a cast iron pan on medium heat. Shred the duck confit to remove all bones, making sure to reserve the skin. Add a dollop of truffle butter to the cast iron pan and heat until slightly brown. Place brioche in the pan and add 1.5 ounces of brie to each slice of bread. Then top the brie with shredded duck confit. Slightly reduce heat and keep the bread moving (spin the bread ever so often), moving it around the pan to ensure an even browning of the brioche. 

While you’re waiting for the bread to brown, take the duck skin and roughly chop it. Place into a small fry pan and sautée until crispy. Once the skin is crispy, remove from the pan, dab dry on a paper towel, and season with sea salt. Then add to the sandwich for a nice crispy texture. 

By this point, all cheese should be melted and duck should be hot. Dress the arugula with olive oil and season it with sea salt and ground black pepper. Add it to the sandwich. Now cut the sandwich into sticks and serve with black truffle aioli. Enjoy!

Michell’s Farm Barbequed Beet and Apple Grilled Cheese

Who: Chef Robert Cassels, Saveur Restaurant, Victoria

Vancouver Island ingredients he’s using: “Island-grown beets and apples from Michell’s Farm.”

What he’s drinking with it: “Whitehaven Sauvignon Blanc, please!”


– 1 medium-sized cooked beet
– 2 Tbsp. of duck confit
– 4 slices of goat cheddar
– 1 tsp. of pickled mustard seeds.
– 2 oz. horseradish mayo
– 1/4 cup fine sliced Savoy cabbage (tender leaves only, remove any denser pieces)
– 4 slices of green apple, julienned
– 2 slices of your favourite bread (we use homemade sourdough)
– 2-3 tsp. peppered vanillla vinaigrette


Butter one side of each bread slice. On the non-buttered sides, place two slices of goat cheddar. Slice the beets ¼-inch thick and give them a good char line on the barbecue. Layer the beets on one piece of bread (non-buttered side) and top with pickled mustard seed. Make sure to spread the mustard seeds evenly. Toss the cabbage and apple in a bowl and dress with the peppered vanilla bean vinaigrette. Place cabbage on the sandwich and close it up. You’re ready to toast! Once your cheese is melted and your toast is golden on both sides, you’re good to go. Dip in horseradish mayo instead of ketchup.

Find other Vancouver Island meals to try here.

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