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INTERVIEW: MasterChef‘s Graham Elliot dishes on Week 2

It’s only Week 2 on MasterChef, but some contestants have already reached their boiling point. In this week’s blog, Chef Graham Elliot shares his thoughts on last night’s drama and other juicy moments.

MasterChef's Graham ElliotSheKnows: Last night’s show started off with a few final auditions, including a carpenter named Jonny B who made y’all lobster crackerjacks consisting of lobster, popcorn, caramel and coconut…

Graham Elliot: Yeah, and he looks like my long-lost cousin or something!

SK: Ha, he totally does! Did y’all really enjoy them as much as you seemed to?

GE: Oh yeah! I tweeted last night, like, “Two words: lobster crackerjack.” Because it was something that all of us thought, “This is going to be ridiculous.” And then we go up and taste it and, all of a sudden, it’s delicious — sweet, salty and crunchy. It just had all these different things working together in harmony, so it was a real standout.

SK: And, hey, he used a beer bottle as a rolling pin, which is resourceful.

GE: Yes! That’s usually something you see people do with a rolling pin or something to get a lot of the meat out of the legs, like, only in New England — a lot of people don’t do that in other places. I think it was cool that he was doing that.

SK: When you narrowed the pool by half, we were stoked to see some of our favorites like Jordan and James make it through. Was there anyone you were particularly torn about sticking in the group that got axed?

GE: I don’t think that there was anybody that we left in that group that should have moved forward. I think that, at the end of the day, the three of us kind of meet and go over things and really decide who has the most potential at that point, based on what we’ve seen and what we’ve tasted. So we split them up into the two groups, and we’re really confident that the group on the right with Lynn and Krissi and everybody else were the ones that needed the opportunity.

SK: Um, during the face-offs, thank you for choosing Johnny over Brian the crazy beaver guy…

GE: Yeah, I told you that guy’s got crazy devil eyes!

SK: Well, we were glad to see him go. And what a naughty little trick you guys played with Luca! I think I may have cried if you hadn’t let him through. Was that a last-minute decision?

GE: It was one of those, “Do we even have a spot for both of them? What are we going to do?” But, you know, Luca has so much potential — he really understands cooking. It’s just trying to rein him in a lot, and also trying to make him think outside of the Italian box. And then Beth doing that lamb cooked over burning hay… it’s just something that you’ve never seen on that show before and that imparted such a great flavor. I think that there was no choice — we weren’t really going to make ourselves lose one of those people, because they were that good. So they both got to go.

SK: Who were you most surprised by last night?

GE: You know who is surprising, I think, is Krissi! The fact that here is the single mom from the south side of Philly who is super-abrasive and tough and get out of my effin’ face and all that stuff, but at the end of the day cooks with so much heart. It’s like a teddy bear in that rough exterior. Seeing her cook food that has so much flavor in it is really cool.

SK: Speaking of her abrasive side, the claws are already coming out with some contestants. Who do you think are the strongest personalities this season?

GE: It’s funny because I tweet during the show and then read all the comments, and it’s incredible what people are already saying and thinking about Natasha.

SK: Oh, yeah…

GE: Oh, yeah! It’s just so funny, and it is — I think — much more of a girl-related thing. People apparently do not like when you constantly call yourself hot and try to make it look as if you’re the prettiest girl in the room. As soon as you start doing that, everyone around you puts a target on your back — not even because of your cooking skills, but just because of that attitude. You’re going to notice this season that it really is every man or woman for him or herself. There’s not a lot of hugging and “Yay, team!” and, “I’ll take a bullet for this person.” It’s more like, “Get out of my face” and, “Screw you!”

SK: Yikes! Well, Natasha won the challenge and chose Langoustine for her competitors to cook. For all of us who aren’t in the know, what exactly is it?

GE: Langoustine is a crustacean, similar to a shrimp, but with a much softer texture and a lot sweeter. You have to handle them and cook them differently. They generally come to you at the restaurant alive, and they are super-expensive because of that and how they are handled — they’re each individually wrapped in special paper. And when you cook them, you have to make sure you don’t undercook them because they’ll get mushy, but if you overcook them they start to get mealy… so it’s a really interesting ingredient. It’s something that is especially prized in European cooking.

SK: Honey — as she would say — I am so bummed you sent Sasha Fox packing! Was that a unanimous decision?

GE: It was, and it’s sad because I think we would have liked to have had Sasha hang out with us for, like, the whole season. She reminds you of Sasha Fox with two “x”s, you know? (laughs) She was just such a breath of fresh air and really fun and she did cook with a lot of heart, but ultimately it’s a cooking competition. Her dish — just think of this — it had to be that bad if it was beating a salad in the worst dish category. Howard got to stay because her dish was that bad.

SK: When you put it that way, it must have been bad, because Gordon and Joe were brutal to Howard — I thought he was going to cry. Doesn’t it tug at your heartstrings just a little?

GE: Howard did cry! And yeah, it’s hard because it’s the tough Army guy with the tattoos and the shaved head and all. We can just throw a plate and say it sucks, or go, “I gave you the most incredible stuff, took a chance on you and you had a full hour, and this is all you were able to come up with? Thank you. Go back to your station.” It’s like your mom and dad saying that they’re disappointed in you. That’s what’s going to make you feel worse than anything, so hopefully he learned from it.

SK: Without giving away too much, any juicy tidbits you can give us about next week?

GE: Well, next week you’re going to see them go out into the field, and a lot of things start coming apart at the seams — especially for one team in particular. There will be continued flare-ups with those personality clashes, but you’re also going to see people kind of step up in new ways when faced with pressure tests and things like that.

Image courtesy Matt Hoyle/FOX

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