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The name Graham Elliot is pretty much synonymous with young, successful chef. You may know him from Master Chef and Master Chef Junior, but Elliot rose to fame at age 27 when he was the youngest four-star chef to be named in any major U.S. city.
Since then, Elliot has surely made a name for himself in the culinary world. His restaurant, Graham Elliot in Chicago, was awarded with two michelin stars, a success only achieved by 15 other restaurants in the U.S.
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From a young age, Elliot took inspiration from food. Raised in an army family, he traveled a lot as a kid and has visited all 50 states.
We got the chance to sit down with Elliot at the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen to talk everything from his favorite food to the two things every Master Chef needs to know how to do.
See our interview with him below!
What's your favorite thing about the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen?
I think Aspen is like, the all star game. It's one where the chefs come here not to make a lot of money or hawk a lot of products — it's just chefs coming here to just hang out together and do what they do. I think the crowd that comes here isn't just snobby people, and it isn't a bunch of amateurs. It's people that really love food and wine. And then, how can you even begin to talk about the setting? It's just sick.
What is the best cooking related advice you've ever received?
That it's not black and white — it's all grey area. It's open to interpretation. You can make anything you want - a carrot can be turned into a carrot salad, carrot cake, carrot jus, and none of them are any better than the other. Once you start looking at things with more of an open mind as opposed to: here's a recipe, here's what I learned from my French chef, cooking school, whatever, you're really liberated to cook whatever you want.
If you could eat one thing for the rest of your life what would it be?
Sashimi. I love raw fish. I really like salmon because it tastes like fish and has it's own flavor, but also a great mouth feel — it's nice and fatty. But, the idea of taking something alive out of the water on a tiny string and hook, and being able to filet it, and slice it, and respect it, and you don't really need to add anything to it.
What's your favorite dish you've ever made?
I don't really have a signature dish per se because I don't really like to be locked into something like that, but I really enjoy making soups because I really feel that they are heartwarming and soulful. And you can do fun things — like we'll be able to do a butternut squash bisque, but instead it's like clarified and clear, with a cinnamon marshmallow that you pour the soup on top of and it dissolves. So, fun things like that. I like to just have whimsy.
What's your favorite dish someone else has ever made for you?
Hmm. I don't know. One dish I loved, that was delicious and also, it was fun because there was only two in the whole restaurant was when I went to Per Se and Thomas Keller made this quail in a jar and it's basically humongous mason jar thats filled with jelly consume, and inside it is a huge torshawn of quail with foie gras in the middle. They brought it to the table with plates for everyone and ten different types of salt, brioche, and then they slice it in humongous slabs and put it in front of each person. It was incredible. It's a very giving kind of thing. You only have two of these, and for them to bring it to the table was pretty cool. I've never seen it anywhere else.
What do you think is a quality every Master Chef needs to have?
I would say the two biggest things are knowing how to season and knowing how to control heat, which a lot of people don't really get. They're focused on being creative, or being TV stars, or what books they want to do, they don't really want to understand the actual physics and fundamentals of cooking. All cooking is is taking something raw and putting fire and making it cook. How you make it tasty is the artistry and craft.
Being able to know that if you turn the pan high it will sear the outside but not cook it. If you turn the pan too low, it'll cook it over time but not give it any color on the outside, so it's important to learn how to balance that. On the show, we never tell people that their dishes are too salty, we're always telling people to add more. Look at salt like a magnifying glass, you put it on and it makes food taste more like itself.
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