INTERVIEW: MasterChef's Graham Elliot chats about Week 5's Glee challenge

Jun 20, 2013 at 4:42 p.m. ET

The home chefs took the show on the road last night, hitting Hollywood to cook for the cast and crew of Glee. For Week 5's blog, Chef Graham Elliot spills to us about meeting Jane Lynch, hosting "Mama" Bastianich, the diva behavior that left a bad taste in his mouth and the pie that made him schoolgirl-giddy.

MasterChef's Graham Elliot SheKnows: The mystery box this week was insane! Which ethnic mystery ingredient do you think tripped up the most people?

Gordon Elliot: Uh, the Iranian pussy willow water. It took Gordon and Joe and I about 50 takes to even be able to say it.

SK: Yeah, that’s a mouthful... literally.

GE: Ha ha! Yep.

SK: Well, if nothing else, y'all had fun messing with the Chinese ground moss. What does it taste like?

GE: Just like dirt. There’s no reason to eat it, I think, unless you’re lost in the woods or something! It’s pretty gnarly.

SK: Yuck! Well, Eddie won that challenge and — don’t tell my husband — I’ve kind of got a crush on the guy. Do you think the other home chefs tend to take him for granted in the competition?

GE: Yeah… I think what you're going to start seeing is Eddie really shines in the team challenges. I think people see him as a good workhorse and not like the most creative guy, but he’s extremely talented and really has the team mentality. He’ll do whatever it takes and be really humble about it, and he’s got a lot of skill. So I really admire Eddie and his passion and work ethic. And I make fun of him that his shirts seem to get tighter with every episode. (laughs)

SK: I don’t think the female demographic that’s watching minds very much...

GE: Nah, I don’t think they do either.

SK: Joe’s mom, Lidia Bastianich — who is, of course, a cooking icon — did a demonstration on how to make Agnolotti pasta. She seemed super-sweet! How was it having her on set?

GE: Oh, she’s awesome! That’s what’s so funny — the dichotomy of how she’s like everybody’s mom or grandma, where she’s just got such a great heart and passion with food and everything else, and then you’ve got Joe who’s… you know, Joe. So many people love Lidia because they’ve grown up with her, and now they see Joe and they see the differences between them. But you really do get a sense, I think, that Joe knows just as much if not more than any of the other judges in food and travel and everything, so he’s kind of in the cooking royal family.

SK: I take back what I said before about Joe possibly favoring Howard he really let Howard have it last night. It was kind of hard to watch! What do you think about Howard’s comment on trying to make his dishes different?

GE: You know, I think that Howard is just — at the end of the day — over his head with a lot of the challenges, and it kind of shows. I don’t think you ever need to try to hurt anyone’s feelings or go overboard, but I think it was time to make it known that he’s the weakest.

SK: Gordon gave him an opportunity to “do the honorable thing,” so Howard left of his own volition — but it was a close call for Lynn. Was there a point when you thought he might go?

GE: Yeah! You know, what’s interesting is that the contestants are super-convinced that Lynn is the one to beat and the greatest and he’s got beautiful plates, but none of that matters if your food isn’t seasoned or doesn’t taste great. So I think there's a lot to be said for that.

SK: How exciting that the challenge this week was cooking for the cast and crew of Glee! Is Jane Lynch as funny as she seems?

GE: She’s incredible! She’s one of the funniest people. And, like, all that was just her on the fly, you know?

MasterChef's Graham Elliot posing on the set of GleeSK: Speaking of funny, you posted a cute little picture on Twitter last night... should we expect you to make a cameo as a Cheerio in an upcoming episode?

GE: You know, I would be up for anything. If they invited me, I’d do it in a second!

SK: Jane picked the teams and divided them into “beauties and beasts,” shortly after Gordon told Jessie that she was in this competition because she could cook — not because of her looks. Is looks versus talent a tension you see developing among the home chefs?

GE: I think at the beginning it’s always that idea. You know, last year it was, “Oh, Christine’s blind, and that’s why they’re being nice to her,” or things like that. But you saw with Jessie that, at the auditions, we wanted to make sure like, “Are you just a pretty face that’s pretending you can cook or do you know what you’re talking about? Here’s some fish, let’s see you butcher it.” And she rocks it out in like a second, and everything is perfect. So we know that she knows her skills, and she’s been able to consistently do well — I think that the proof is in the pudding.

SK: Man, she really sliced her finger during the challenge, huh? Did she require some additional medical attention afterwards?

GE: No, she got it all bandaged up and she went right back in there.

SK: Oh wow... she’s tough!

GE: She really is tough. Her dad was an all-star hockey player, so I’m sure she’s tough. She’s never once played the pretty card. I think you see her develop as a cooking person a lot this season — she’s very solid.

SK: I really do feel as though she’s genuinely nice. It’s not an act, is it?

GE: No, it’s not at all. She’s almost shy! But you know who’s not shy is Krissi! (laughs)

SK: Seriously! It’s almost like Krissi and Natasha made up, and Krissi moved on to targeting Jessie and poor Bime, who I was so, so sad to see go. What’s up with that?

GE: I don’t know. I personally had a soft spot for Bime. I think that there’s a lot of similarities with us dropping out of school and trying to do what you can for your kids and stuff like that. I think he made a horrible mistake, but it was too early for him to go. I think he had a lot of skill and promise. But it’s funny watching all of the Twitter feeds and seeing people go from like, “I’m Team Krissi, I think she’s super-cool,” to everyone in the world not liking her right now.

SK: It was obvious how the other home chefs felt about her saving herself after calling it a “bi*** move” when Jordan did it, but what did you judges think?

GE: We all say the same thing like, you know, everybody would save themselves because it is what it is — it’s a competition. But if you’re going to do that, there’s no way you can ever speak ill of someone else that does it. To call Jordan out on that before and then turn around and do it is pretty horrible.

SK: Jordan seemed to fare okay, considering you said his lime meringue pie had you “giddy like a schoolgirl,” ha ha. Is it safe to assume it was his you enjoyed the most?

GE: Oh, yeah… for sure. You didn’t really see it on the show, but he was freaking out the most because he’d never really done it. Then all of a sudden, you see him pull it out of the oven, and it looked perfect. I mean, all of them had some flaws, but his was easily the best one we had.

SK: Nice! So what kind of fun stuff can we look forward to next week?

GE: Well, next week is not for the vegans, and it’s not for the faint of heart. You’ve got, under the mystery box, one ingredient — which is a whole pig head.

SK: Oh, geez! I’m a vegetarian...

GE: Oh yeah, you’re going to see the eyes, the ears, the tongue — the whole thing! (laughs)

SK: This should be interesting.

Watch Lidia and Joe taste Howard's Agnolotti pasta


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Top image courtesy of Matt Hoyle/Fox; bottom image courtesy of @GrahamElliot/Twitter