INTERVIEW: MasterChef's Graham Elliot on the poultry that clipped a top contender's wings
It's Week 12 of MasterChef Season 4 and, from the looks of it, the competition is full of "fowl" play... literally. In this week's blog, Chef Graham Elliot gives us the skinny on their plucky pantry and the contestant he hated to see go home.
SheKnows: Honestly, we're still kind of reeling from last night’s elimination... but let’s start with the Mystery Box Challenge. You said you would have paired your t-bone with something simple and summery like potato salad. Care to share an easy potato salad recipe?
Graham Elliot: Fingerling potatoes, mayo, grainy mustard, pickled red onion, fresh herbs and salt and pepper — the simpler the better!
SK: Y'all were super-impressed with Krissi’s potato galette. For those of us not in the know, what is a galette and why was hers so successful?
GE: A galette is a french term for a "crispy cake." Krissi's was a crispy potato cake that was cooked and seasoned perfectly. That's what elevated her to the winner's circle.
SK: The other chefs weren’t too thrilled, but Krissi walked away with the win and you said she “found her voice in cooking.” How would you describe that voice?
GE: Krissi rubbed everyone the wrong way from day one, so nobody enjoys watching her succeed. Personal thoughts aside, there is no denying that she seasons her food more aggressively than anyone else in the kitchen, which mirrors her attitude.
SK: Last week the pantry was overflowing with eggs, so I guess if you look at this season of MasterChef, the answer to the age-old “which came first” question would be the egg... not the chicken, which was in the pantry this week, clucking alongside five other fowl. How excited were y’all to surprise the home chefs with all those birds?
GE: Not only was it exciting for them to have to prepare different birds, but it was awesome for them to see the animal live and kicking in front of them as opposed to boneless and skinless in a plastic wrap.
SK: Okay, so you had a quail, pigeon, pheasant, chicken, duck and turkey, which Krissi gave to Jordan, Bri, Natasha, Jessie, James and Luca, respectively. Would you have done anything differently?
GE: At this point, everyone is equally strong. Krissi could have pulled names out of a hat and, at the end of the day, one of the top seven of America's home cooks would be going home.
SK: What’s your personal favorite to cook from that group? Or eat?
GE: Pigeon or duck, as it is slightly gamey but provides a vehicle for multiple flavors to harmonize as one.
SK: I could not stop laughing at Luca with that turkey —“I don’t catch-a a turkey!” Classic. Were you guys watching as the chaos unfolded?
GE: This was the first time seeing it, and it was hilarious. I went in to it feeling sorry for Bri, but I agree — Luca was far and away, the most entertaining.
SK: By the way, I’m sure everyone would love to know where you guys got the blingy pimp chain with Luca’s head on it the turkey wore around its neck...
GE: They were actually made in house/on set. And I'm pretty sure they were inspired by Elvis' "TCB" necklace.
SK: Ha, ha! Gotcha. Well, was there anyone you were worried about as they were preparing their dish that ended up doing surprisingly well?
GE: No, I think we could tell from the get-go who was looking strong versus who was out of their depth. And we were right by the end of the challenge.
SK: Alas, Jordan was de-aproned due to a dismal quail dish. He was one of my favorites from day one! What could he have done with the quail that would have kept him in the competition?
GE: With such a small bird, a good rule of thumb is to use the whole bird by stuffing it and roasting it.
SK: You had some pretty harsh words for Jessie, calling her pan-seared chicken "what you eat at a family reunion with Skynard playing in the background,” like a “frozen dinner,” and “the kind of plate we send people home for.” Did you agree with the decision to send home Jordan over Jessie?
GE: Regardless of how uninspired Jessie's dish was, at least it was cooked.
SK: You took off your glasses, so this must have been a tough elimination for you. Has Jordan taken you up on the offer to come work in your kitchen?
GE: Not yet. However, we've chatted over Twitter a bit, and the offer still stands.
SK: Bri and Natasha beat out the other contestants, and Jordan predicted Natasha would take the entire thing. Any hints you can give us about how these top contenders do as captains next week?
GE: One uses positive motivation while the other leads with an iron fist. Which do you think will secure the win?
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