‘Top Chef: Charleston’ exclusive: Graham Elliot on why he signed up — and his specific judging style
Tonight, the latest episode of “Top Chef” is going to air on Bravo, and it marks the first time this season that we’re going to have both a quickfire and an elimination challenge within the span of a single episode.
Back during the premiere episode, we also had a chance to see one of the new regular judges for the season for the first time in Graham Elliot. The famed chef will be appearing off and on this season, and we spoke to him recently via email about coming on board this show after appearing as a judge on “MasterChef” and a participant on “Top Chef Masters,” and some of what he is specifically looking for from the contestants.
CarterMatt – I’ve watched you on ‘MasterChef’ and spoken to you about that show before — what made you want to be a part of ‘Top Chef’ this season?
Graham Elliot – I’ve been a fan of the show for years and like all other chefs, I have always looked up to Tom Colicchio. That said, a chance to move over from the competition side to the judging side was a no-brainer.
Is there any fundamental change to your judging style working more with professional chefs? Is there anything in particular you’re looking for?
I tend to focus on creativity and understand why they made what they did (thought process) as opposed to their technique. Also as a past contestant I think I can easily put myself in their shoes which gives me a different unique perspective.
Did being on ‘Top Chef Masters’ help you to emphasize with these chefs a little bit, or does that just come from years of experience in the kitchen?
Yes, I understand better than most the stress (and the excitement) that comes with not only being under the gun, but doing it with cameras on you.
How much familiarity did you have with these particular contestants going into the show?
I knew of some of them from past seasons as well as simply being in the same line of work (I hate referring our line of work as an “industry”).
Last season there were so many chefs who chose to make a crudo that it became a bit of a joke and point of frustration for the judges. Were there any specific dishes or food trends you were hoping to see the contestants avoid?
I’d say more so the plating of the food as opposed to the style or technique. With Instagram it seems everyone is making their food identical to everyone else’s. The fact that a chef from the middle of North Dakota and the team at Noma put out identical food is a bit concerning.
What did you enjoy about being in and around Charleston the most?
I’ve always been in love with the Deep South/Low Country region of the US, so being able to soak it all in was a great experience.
What was the rapport and the chemistry like between you, Padma [Lakshmi], Tom, and Gail [Simmons]?
We got along great, I feel we each have our own style, beliefs, thought processes but at the end of the day the chef who cooks the best wins.
Thanks again to Graham for his time! While we cannot tell you specifically which upcoming episodes he’ll be a part of, keep your eyes peeled in the weeks and months to come.
For some further news on “Top Chef,” including episode reviews and “Last Chance Kitchen” news, be sure to head over to the link here. (Photo: Bravo.)
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