The judges threw the final six MasterChef contenders for a loop last night by bringing back Lynn, Bri and Bime to duke it out for another shot at an apron. Chef Graham Elliot gabs with us about sending home Lynn (again), Bri and Bime’s bout and squaring off against the Chuck Norris of cooking.
SheKnows: You’ve brought back contestants before, but do you think this season’s home chefs expected it to happen?
Graham Elliot: No, I don’t think that they did. I think that they were surprised but — now that it’s happened two seasons in a row — maybe next season people might kind of expect it and we’ll have to come up with something else.
SK: Coming into the challenge, how sure do you think everyone was that Lynn would prevail?
GE: Yeah, it’s funny — Lynn’s super-talented and he makes pretty food, but he definitely seems to be good at marketing, because these guys are all so scared of him all the time, and he hasn’t really produced the same level or consistency that these other guys have.
SK: What was the problem with Lynn putting eggs in the oven and — at this level — were you surprised he tried that?
GE: Yeah, ’cause with a sunny-side up egg you always cook it from the bottom so it’s a low temp against the white, the yolk is still pretty raw and undercooked, and that’s it. To put a lid on top and have them start steaming, and then putting them in the oven — that’s completely the opposite of what it’s supposed to be, so it kind of shows he wasn’t as skilled, maybe, as the others. You know, Bime had the most eggs produced and the highest level of usable eggs, so I think he won that one easily.
SK: I want to talk about Bime, because I think he’s such a sweetheart. But what’s with the rude remarks from the other chefs?
GE: I don’t know what it is! I don’t know if he was just too rough around the edges or if he didn’t mesh with people, but I always saw Bime as someone who cooks with a ton of emotion, who is super-passionate, very driven, turned his life around and has a lot of skill. And it was great to give him a second chance to come in and show people what he has.
SK: Do you think he redeemed himself in their eyes at all for sending Lynn packing?
GE: I think they had already made up their minds that, if they were given a choice, they’d want Bri back. But I thought it was great to have that blind tasting. You saw how close that was.
SK: I hate to ask it, but — had you not done a blind tasting, do you think Bime’s food would’ve gotten a fair shake? Or would it all have just been votes for Bri?
GE: Yeah, I think so. Not just because they like her more, but because — strategy-wise — they think, “Oh, she’s a vegetarian and we can take her out later.”
SK: Hmm… I don’t think they give her enough credit.
SK: Oh my word at the eggs in that pantry! I’ve never seen so many. Seriously, did y’all count to see how many were in there?
GE: I think somebody did count! It was well into the thousands.
SK: Wow! Well, how many sunny-side up eggs could you cook perfectly in 15 minutes?
GE: You know what’s funny is that Gordon and I were supposed to have an egg cook-off when the show was wrapping up but never got to it. Maybe we’ll do that next season and we’ll see! I think it would be a fun time.
SK: Definitely! I think it would be fun just to see Gordon get flustered and get a little egg on his shirt, you know?
GE: Yeah, I don’t think he gets flustered, though. (laughs) He’s done this so long he can just close his eyes and cook a bunch of eggs.
SK: Right — he’s like the Chuck Norris of cooking. The eggs don’t fluster Gordon Ramsay; Gordon Ramsay flusters the eggs.
GE: (laughs) Yep, that’s pretty much it!
SK: To see who would win back the white apron, Bri and Bime had to cook up some seriously impressive king salmon. What’s the key to not ruining a fish like that?
GE: Well I think with salmon, the butchery is one thing, and then making sure that you really take care of it and cook it in a way that showcases its natural flavor is another. You don’t want to marinate it and grill it and do all this stuff that makes it not taste like itself. And then also cooking it the right temperature. I’d say most people want their salmon mid-rare — medium at the most — and both of those fish looked to be pretty cooked through. Gordon and I didn’t get to see them or taste them when they were finished — we got to taste when they were prepped and [throughout] the cooking — but what else was fun is that we made sure that we didn’t find out who had won the white apron either. Only Joe knew, so we were just as surprised as [the home chefs] when Bri came out.
SK: Did you get a chance to talk to Joe and find out what he thought gave Bri’s dish the edge?
GE: I think that it was mostly the potatoes — people liked the roasted fingerlings and thought that Bime’s mashed potatoes with cheese in them or whatever were a little heavy for that dish.
SK: You clearly believe in Bime, but do you think Gordon and Joe were surprised that he only lost to Bri by one vote?
GE: No, I think that they know Bime is super-talented as well! It was really anybody’s game. Again, I just thought it was really funny to see everybody immediately freak out about Lynn.
SK: I find it really weird that no one feels that way about Bri. Don’t you think she’s proven herself enough times over to be considered a threat?
GE: Yeah, and she seems way more confident now, too — especially with Krissi trying to intimidate her and stuff like that.
SK: Are we going to see the battle between Krissi and Bri play out more?
GE: I don’t know. I don’t think so. Krissi doesn’t respect her and doesn’t think she can cook because she’s a vegetarian and all, but I’ve never seen Bri come out and attack Krissi for no reason. She just kind of stands up to her, but she’s not starting anything.
SK: I’m really pumped Bri is back.
GE: It seems like everybody is, by looking online! A million people wanted her to come back, so they’re all excited.
SK: What kind of surprises do y’all have in store for us next week?
GE: Um, next week someone is going to go home that no one is going to expect, so that’ll be pretty intense! And it’s going to be funny with this whole “fowl” thing, where the birds are running around and each person is kind of given a certain animal that they have to cook — some people are more creative than others. It’ll be really interesting to see how they go through that.
Watch Bri’s hilarious audition clip with outtakes!
More on MasterChef
INTERVIEW: MasterChef’s Graham Elliot talks tag-teamin’ in Week 10
INTERVIEW: MasterChef’s Graham Elliot on makeshift shivs & other perils of Week 9’s wilderness challenge
INTERVIEW: MasterChef’s Graham Elliot says hello to sausage and goodbye to Bethy in Week 8
Check back weekly!
Get behind-the-scenes deets on each episode by following our Q&A sessions with Chef Graham Elliot every Thursday. Have something you’re dying to ask the chef? Share via comment and your question may be featured!