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 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What inspires Graham Elliot when he's creating a menu?

    First, the season. Not like the farmers markets and all that stuff. But literally the idea that you should be able to close your eyes and what you're eating should tell you what's going on outside and in nature. I'm inspired by music and art, by walking outside and seeing a red stop sign and thinking rhubarb and cherries. I think you really have to commit to this relationship with ingredients and go from there. Everything has to be balanced. If you have something soft like foie gras, you need something crunchy or acidic to cut through the fattiness. Sweet and salty, things like that. You have ideas for dishes and you can interchange everything with the actual ingredient or technique. 
  • On October 1, 2012
    Graham Elliot answered the question: Graham Elliot

    What inspires Graham Elliot when he's creating a menu?

    First, the season. Not like the farmers markets and all that stuff. But literally the idea that you should be able to close your eyes and what you’re eating should tell you what’s going on outside and in nature. I’m inspired by music and art, by walking outside and seeing a red stop sign and thinking rhubarb and cherries. I think you really have to commit to this relationship with ingredients and go from there. Everything has to be balanced. If you have something soft like foie gras, you need something crunchy or acidic to cut through the fattiness. Sweet and salty, things like that. You have ideas for dishes and you can interchange everything with the actual ingredient or technique. 
  • On August 22, 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 August 22, 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 August 22, 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 Year’s 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 August 22, 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 Year’s 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 August 22, 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 August 22, 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 August 22, 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 August 22, 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 August 22, 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 August 22, 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 August 22, 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 August 22, 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 August 22, 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.