Cooking Like A Master Chef
100 Recipes to Make the Everyday Extraordinary
By Graham Elliot
Suzy Chase: Welcome to the Cookery By the Book podcast with me, Suzy Chase.
Graham Elliot: This is Graham Elliot, and I'm the author of the new cookbook, Cooking Like a Master Chef: 100 Recipes to Make the Everyday Extraordinary.
Suzy Chase: In Cooking Like a Master Chef, your 100 deliciously creative recipes motivate us home cooks to push up our sleeves and get some good food on the table. Can you give us your culinary manifesto?
Graham Elliot: I guess that's something that I actually came up with and wrote when I was 25 and kind of running my kitchen for the first time. And it was just a set of beliefs that, looking back on 11 years later, I guess still make a lot of sense to me which is allowing food to just taste like itself. Not to model it and turn it into something crazy. To pay respect to ingredients, the farmers, the farms where the ingredients come from. How to really be humble in the kitchen and look at it as almost like your dojo in how you keep it clean and orderly. Those kind of help mold your entire being and mindset when it comes to being in a kitchen and cooking, so I think it's fun to have that be part of the cookbook.
Suzy Chase: In the forward of Cooking Like a Master Chef, Gordon Ramsay calls you one of America's most talented chefs. When did you first meet him?
Graham Elliot: I met Gordon back in '99 when he did a dinner out here in Chicago at the restaurant I worked at, which was Charlie Trotter's. To be next to him working, cooking, was very inspiring. I think I was 21, 22 at the time. From there watched his career and came across his path a few times in between. Then doing Master Chef, being asked if I wanted to come out and be part of it, and getting along great. Now seven seasons later having this forward to the cookbook it's pretty fun to look back on all that.
Suzy Chase: On Master Chef or Master Chef Junior has there ever been when you could tell right away that a certain person was going to be a top contender? Graham Elliot: Oh year, I think every season we always have someone kind of like you know, sitting at the table as judges and discussing who we think is going to take the whole thing, who's our top five, who's our top ten. What's hard a lot of times is someone you think is going to win the whole thing by no fault of their own all of a sudden gets a kind of crappy and now they're in a pressure test and they got stuck making dish X that sends them home. That's just the tough break.
Suzy Chase: Do you ever learn any new tips or tricks from the contestants?
Graham Elliot: Oh yeah, all the time. I think you have to be open minded as a chef, as a person that's on this foodie journey. When I look at some of the kids from Master Chef Junior put together flavor combinations and different techniques that they're showing from where they're from you walk away learning not only just that actual technique but also I guess a new way to look at things. They have such an innocence and open mind when it comes to cooking it's really inspiring.
Suzy Chase: This cookbook is going to be a culinary inspiration for so many people. What was the first cookbook that inspired you?
Graham Elliot: Oh probably the old Betty Crocker Cookbook, the red checkered table cloth looking front cover ...
Suzy Chase: The one that all of our mom's had?
Graham Elliot: Exactly. And I still remember always looking through it, not at the just the recipe titles but the pictures and the little drawings that were in there. I loved food and I loved the finished product. I didn't know how to get there, you know, from raw to cooked state at that age, but that was a big book that I loved. I also, the first professional book I guess I saw was Wolfgang Puck's Spago Cookbook when I was dish washing at a restaurant. Really loved that idea of coming out with really creative things and putting your own spin on it. That's funny to look back on twenty years later and see that I now have my own book.
Suzy Chase: You write music, play it, record it, and you're the culinary director for Lollapalooza. How did that come about?
Graham Elliot: I've always been a huge music fan and would play in the kitchen and play in the dining room. It just permeates everything that I do. I mentioned to the Lolla people I wanted to cook for some of these headlining bands and they said, well we'd like you to maybe come and have a presence at the festival. Why don't you have a little food booth and offer some stuff? I did that and then the next year we put our heads together and said let's take this to a new level. We started overseeing all the food offerings, who was going to come and be part of the festival, what bands we were going to cook for. Now I think we've seen all the other music festivals kind of copy that, get inspired by it and follow suit. It's been really neat to look at that journey.
Suzy Chase: If you had to chose would you rather be on stage jamming with the band or in the kitchen cooking for the band?
Graham Elliot: Yeah, you know I think I'd rather be cooking for the band but then I want my band to go out and jam. I think all chefs want to be rock stars for sure.
Suzy Chase: Flipping through Cooking Like a Master Chef I can see so much of cooking as a journey. How has your style matured?
Graham Elliot: I think I now put less ingredients in a dish or on a plate than maybe when I was younger. As you get older you realize some of the best ingredients are the ones you leave off the plate. Because you don't want it to just be a dish about showing how creative you are or how out there you can be but reining it in a little and making it delicious and still fun. I think that that's ... I no longer have to just try to wow and freak everybody out. I've settled down a little bit.
Suzy Chase: Do you still identify with the foie gras lollipop?
Graham Elliot: I love the idea of the foie gras lollipop because you have something that's like $50 a pound next to something that's 50 cents a pack. I look at it as the gateway drug for organ meats. You've got this rich creaminess juxtaposed with that crunchy effervescent candy. At the same time it's not in the cookbook. It's kind of like the unlisted track on an album where people know about it or ask about it. At the restaurant we generally will have them.
Suzy Chase: Last night for dinner I made your recipe for grilled cheese sliders with pancetta and tomato marmalade on page 17, and I made your iceberg wedge with smoked bacon and Roquefort dressing on page 62. You have a whole paragraph about marmalade. What exactly is marmalade?
Graham Elliot: It's like a classic jam but stewed down, you know, citrus peel. I think at the end of the day when you taste it it's a good mix of not just sweet sour but also some bitter notes that a lot of Europe focuses on but over here I don't think that we use as much. I love the massive burst of flavor that you get with marmalade. I also love that sticky texture that comes with a really good one.
Suzy Chase: It really worked with the pancetta and I had a really, really good cheddar.
Graham Elliot: Oh yeah, yeah.
Suzy Chase: All those flavors really worked well together. Talk to me about pancetta versus bacon.
Graham Elliot: Pancetta what you have, it's basically unsmoked, so it's pork belly that's been cured and rolled. Then with bacon it's the pork belly that's been smoked, cured, and then sliced. I think when I want a really assertive flavor is when I'll go with the bacon. The pancetta's going to be a little bit more of that nice porky salty flavor but not that huge burst of smoke and spice that you would get with bacon.
Suzy Chase: Where can we find you on the web? Graham Elliot: At www.grahamelliot.com, and I also have a grahamelliotstore.com where we have, you know, mugs, and tote bags and all those other kinds of goodies.
Suzy Chase: Graham, thanks for coming on Cookery by the Book podcast.
Graham Elliot: Thank you for having me.