Graham Elliot

Chef, TV Personality

Chicago

Culinary wizard Graham Elliot juxtaposes haute cuisine with humor and out-of-the-box artistry. At age 27, he became the youngest Four-Star chef to be named in any major U.S. city. Then at age 31, he opened Graham Elliot, a restaurant that would not only bear his name, but embody his core belief that cooking is an artistic, creative outlet. He closed his namesake fine-dining restaurant in December 2013. From December 2010 to August 2013, Elliot ran the casual sandwich shop Grahamwich in Chicago's River North area. His third Chicago restaurant, g.e.b., offers a stripped-down, seasonally focused menu. In addition to appearing on Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters, he co-stars alongside Gordon Ramsay in the FOX series MasterChef. 

  • On October 18, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What are Graham Elliot's favorite places for brunch in Chicago?

    Yolk, it's right by the restaurant. Brunch, to me, is so brutal because there are no reservations, and you go and wait forever. I’m not a big waiting guy. I like Ina's — not just for brunch but for breakfast. I heard The Publican has a good brunch. I have to try that. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What are Graham Elliot's favorite places for brunch in Chicago?

    Yolk, it's right by the restaurant. Brunch, to me, is so brutal because there are no reservations, and you go and wait forever. I’m not a big waiting guy. I like Ina's — not just for brunch but for breakfast. I heard The Publican has a good brunch. I have to try that. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What does Graham Elliot think is the best time of year to visit Chicago?

    I like Christmas. I know everyone likes summer, but it gets really hot. Chicago's not really fun January to March or April, and we don't get much of a fall. But Thanksgiving to New Years is when you've got your Christkindlmarket, the parades, all that stuff. It's cold, but you've got your hot chocolate. To me, it's perfect —very Americana mixed with city. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    Does Graham Elliot like being on TV?

    I think it's more fun to be on the other side than actually doing the challenges, just because you're able to teach and give your philosophy. When they say you have one minute to make whatever, it's hard to describe what goes behind it because of editing and whatever else. But to be able to say, "This is why you're not going forward" or "This is why your dish wins," that's really cool. And to see people from all over the country and their background and regionality and ethnicity, it's great. You really see that people in this country are cooking and doing really well. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What's it like for Graham Elliot to be the Lollapalooza culinary ambassador?

    It's great. It's not only cooking for bands and stuff like that, but it's to showcase restaurants that have a similar philosophy, are inspired by music and are Chicago-based. There are so many independent places that do cool stuff that we want to show 90,000 people every day from all over the world what Chicago has to offer in a cool setting.
     
    You want to incorporate music into the vibe, but it can't be a food expo. Every year we ask, "How do we keep pushing it forward?" and "How do we show Chicago and have the restaurants do little dishes that are almost carnival/state fair-influenced?" You’ve got Bonnaroo and Coachella that do great music, but they don't do the same food deal. We're the only festival that really does anything like that. Because every year food gets bigger and bigger and more important; it's a cool part of Lolla. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What's up next for Graham Elliot?

    I'd love to do some kind of live music venue. I don't know how much more live music Chicago can take. It'd be fun to partner with someone. Like [concert hall] Metro — if we could do all the food and drinks there, it'd be so cool. If we could do stuff like our little buffalo chicken with beer bubbles and a little celery salad — all those plays on dishes everyone likes, but kind of redone, like small little bar food. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    Which other chefs does Graham Elliot look to for inspiration?

    It's super important never to copy, and you don't want to get inspired too much. You have to find your own voice and do your thing. But I really enjoy everything that Grant [Achatz] does, and Wylie Dufresne at wd-50 in New York — I go there every time. Chris Cosentino at Incanto in San Fran — what he does with different cuts of meat and things like that. I get really excited by what those places do. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    If Graham Elliot weren't a chef, what would he do?

    Politics. I'm going to cook for as long as I need to — to financially sustain myself — and then go into politics. I can't stand Congress. It just kills me. I follow politics the way people follow sports. I'm watching four channels at once and seeing not just who's trying to push legislation, but the chess moves of "we're blocking this to do this." It's just so bad. With food, you create a vision and then you get your team to follow it and the guests buy into it. If I could do the same thing with politics, it would be like trying to give back somehow. It's not ego driven. It'd be really fun to go and shake stuff up. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What inspired Graham Elliot to be a chef?

    I wanted to be able to work with my hands and get a job wherever I went because I knew I liked to travel and thought that food would be this fun thing to do. I came across different cookbooks, especially the Charlie Trotter's cookbook, which showed me how beautiful things could be, and instead of using tongs and pouring something out of a sauté pan on a million plates — you could say, "I'm going to do 50 covers and use tiny little copper pots and spoons, and it's this beautiful, romantic, sensual experience." And then you get into the other side of where the food came from and how do you prepare stuff. It influences the guest. That whole experience is always fun. I think we're getting away from that in restaurants. Eating at The French Laundry in '95 or 2000, when Thomas Keller was plating every dish, is a lot different now with three Bouchons and Per Se. I'm sure it's just as great, but that romantic feeling … it's like seeing the Stones in 1970 versus seeing them in a stadium now with 100,000 people.
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What's Graham Elliot's food philosophy?

    Basically that there's no right or wrong in cooking and that everything is a gray area — it's not black and white. It's based on spontaneity. We have no recipes at [Graham Elliot]. One day it can be a pea soup with a carrot marshmallow, the next day it can be a carrot sorbet with a pea panna cotta and then a dehydrated pea and pickle carrot salad. Always being able to change things. If we say if it's not broken, break it. So, change for the sake of changing. That sums up what we do. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    Which destination does Graham Elliot want to visit?

    London. I've never been. [Fellow MasterChef judge Gordon Ramsay] and a lot of the producers on the show are from Manchester, and are always like, "You gotta come." And my investor from the restaurant is there. I really, really want to check it out. I've been to Italy, Belgium, Spain, France and part of Germany. My favorite out of all of those was Strasbourg, which was the coolest. The thing that I do is go to all of the churches. I just get so excited with these old churches, the history and relics. It's just so fascinating. I'd love to go to London for all of that stuff. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What are Graham Elliot's favorite restaurants?

    That's always a hard one because restaurants change so much with the people who come and go from there, and places open and close. In Chicago, there are great places like GT Fish and Oyster, Yusho, Longman & Eagle, Urban Belly. I think the most exciting restaurant in the country — and not just in Chicago — is Next. To be able to change all the time, it's like going to culinary school. I've been to the real El Bulli in Spain, which was a pretty marvelous experience. Per Se was one of my favorite meals in the U.S. Swan Oyster Depot is super awesome. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What's the best trip Graham Elliot has ever taken?

    I actually went by myself in February of 2003 for about two weeks through the Southwest. I drove through Colorado, Nevada and Utah and hit all the state parks. It was kind of a spiritual journey. You're hanging out under the stars at Arches National Park or the Grand Canyon seeing those things. There's a certain loneliness that comes, and to have to work through that is really interesting and makes you stronger. Seeing those things kind of gets stamped into your mind a little more — they last a long time.
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    Why did Graham Elliot create his restaurant?

    I felt like I had done everything I had ever wanted at Avenues — Four Stars, different awards and TV stuff. Now, how do we do similar food, looking at all of the preconceived rules and getting rid of it all? So here, there's no linen, one glass, and one napkin, fork and knife for everything. Every plate is the same. You still have these luxurious tasting menus, but the playlist changes every day, and all the staff chooses what we listen to, so it's really eclectic. That's the idea here — to redefine what fine dining is. There's no flowers or fancy stuff. We really stripped the building down so there's exposed ductwork and beams and brick and all that kind of stuff. The food is the real focus on the table. That was the idea. We're following our own path, and we can't rely on anyone else to define what we do. It's worked because Top Chef Masters and MasterChef and Lollapalooza — all of these things have come to us without us trying to pitch ourselves to anybody. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    How does music influence Graham Elliot's food?

    It's not a direct thing. I don't say, "We're going to take The Beatles' The White Album and make 10 white dishes." Like at g.e.b., it's much more of a punk aesthetic, where we're going to have a record player at the bar, all menus are going to be on an LP, and the guests are going to be able to take that record out and go play it for the dining room to hear. We’re going to have bandanas as the napkins — just really stripped down and fun. It's not kitschy at all. It's really more of an "eff you" to the idea of what a restaurant has to be. It's a place that we would want to eat and hang out at as a team and as a restaurant. This place continues to be more of an homage to creativity and artistry and pushing the envelope.