Interview with the Stars of Fox’s MasterChef
By Susan Hornik
Even if you don’t know how to cook, you can’t help but love Fox’s competition series, MasterChef! Now in its fifth season, chefs Graham Elliot, Gordon Ramsey and restauranteur Joe Bastianich put contestants through a series of fast paced elimination rounds and turn one home cook into a culinary master. And even your grandchildren love the show– last season, Masterchef Junior was very popular with the youth demographic too!
Elliot has loved working on either incarnation of the show. “I think they’re both fun, and challenging at the same time. With the adults you’re dealing more with ego, and not bad habits, but old tricks, I guess. Then, with the children, we actually have to make things harder because they’re always way better than we ever imagined; it’s exciting both ways!”
All the chefs have learned a lot from the home cooks as well, said Elliot. “For me, I think that the biggest thing is going in there with an open mind and humility. I think that all three of us judges have learned a lot of things with Gordon just learning every day about the nuances of American cuisine. Obviously, he’s traveled extensively, but it’s a massive country with tons of different styles and regionality with their food, so I think that’s fun to see. Also Joe, on the flip side, knowing a lot about American and European cuisine, and never having had a curry when we started the show and now he’s a big fan. Myself, always open and excited to see new ingredients, new techniques and, also, the approaches, especially when there’s new, unique ingredients that maybe I’ve used before, and seeing how somebody that’s never touched it goes about it in a different way. I might say, ‘oh, yuzu, it’s a great citrus, it’s from Japan, it goes with fish and this.’ Somebody else might taste it and say, ‘oh, I want to make a yuzu tart because it takes like lemon instead of a lemon tart,’ and I’ll say, ‘wow, I never thought of doing it in a dessert preparation.’ It’s always fun to see how they interact with ingredients, for me. “
Elliot has some pantry must haves for Fiftyisthenewfifty.com readers! Obviously, start with your olive oil, kosher salt, sea salt. I think it’s nice to have a couple spices, things that really add a lot to dishes, whether it’s cumin and fennel seed, some of those things. Also, I’m just thinking pantry wise; soy sauce, semolina flour, a mix of different dried fruits and nuts; all those things that can be translated into sweet and savory.
Eating all that great food has gotten Elliot way more over weight than he wanted to be. This season he debuted a fantastic slimmer body. I got to 400 pounds, and realized that I don’t have to accept this role just in life as the big, round chef. Having three boys, a new baby and health issues from blood pressure to sleep apnea, I realized that having joined a million gyms and trainers I just wasn’t able to do this on my own so I decided to have the weight loss surgery, and I had a procedure that allowed me to still taste and eat everything, just not large amounts. I’m able to do the show, taste, go to restaurants, do tasting menus. It doesn’t impact what I do with food at all, it’s just the quantity is the issue. So far I’ve lost 150 pounds! And I’m doing a 10k this weekend, and running in the Chicago Marathon in the fall.
Elliot thoroughly enjoys working with Ramsey, who may be tough on screen, but is the nicest guy off camera!
About Ramsey, Elliot said: “He’s a great natural cook, and it’s always fun to see him do it. I go back to the restaurant after we’re done filming, and a lot of the cooks and people on my culinary team always ask, ‘how’s Gordon in the kitchen, can he still cook, because he does a lot of TV.’ I always say that if I had to build a team he would always be the first-round draft pick because, not only is he great at coaching and leading and inspiring, but he could make 100 soufflés and then jump over and filet 100 salmon and then roast 100 lamb racks and everything is perfect, which is really, really fun to see somebody that can do both sides from entertaining on television to getting their hands dirty, and being able to do any kind of station in the kitchen.”Elliot also loves Joe. “It’s great because they’re actually, I think, two of my closest friends, not just in the industry, but just in general. We get to talk all day up on stage, and then in between filming we’re in our rooms and listening to music together and talking. I can text them both for advice whether it’s hey, I’m doing an event, or what do you think about this restaurant concept. It’s like having two mentors next to me, and also two older brothers. They’re also a big reason of my getting healthy. Both of them have done the Iron Man Triathlon and always speaking about how to be your best and things like that, so I give them a ton of credit.
Keep your eye on the 56 year old contestant Leslie Gilliams, who so far, hasn’t made many friends on the show!
Masterchef airs Monday nights on Fox.
Susan Hornik is a contributor to HGTV’s FrontDoor.com, NBC Today.com‘s The Clicker, Travelchannel.com, FiftyistheNewFifty.com, Brainworld, Redbook, Canada’s Chatelaine, Daytime Confidential, CSQ, UK”s Look, First for Women, Twist, Discover Hollywood, Dish, Maxim, Health, Mademan.com, Match.com‘s Happenmag.com