“MasterChef” judge Graham Elliot is one of the top chefs on the planet! He has a new cookbook coming out in the fall, is back as a judge on the hit reality show “MasterChef” season 6, and is hosting a new show on the Food Network called “Craziest Restaurants In America” which premieres tonight (Wednesday, June 3rd).
The busy and talented host, judge and author is also an expert when it comes to reinventing classic summer staples that you grew up on, like hamburgers, grilled chicken, fried chicken, strawberry shortcake and much more! I had a chance to check out the recipes, and I’m eager to start grilling now, they look that amazing. Graham Elliot was kind enough to join me for an interview this afternoon to discuss some of his favorite recipes for summer, the secret to grilling, how to plan the perfect summer barbecue, his new show “Craziest Restaurants In America” on the Food Network, and what life is like as judge on “MasterChef” season 6.
Candace Rose: What are some of your favorite dishes to prepare for friends and family for summer?
Graham Elliot: “I like doing things that people have maybe had before but with a new twist on them – grilled chicken but with a watermelon and olive salsa; corn, but instead of just corn – doing a grit cake with roasted corn on top. Of course the Grahamburger which you had mentioned, doing it with watercress, chard, onion, some kind of melted brie – so flavors that you’ve had before but in a new way.
The other thing that I like to do is focus on what you’re pairing it with. Instead of just a beer or a lemonade, here I’m taking different Mike’s Hard Lemonades, whether it’s peach or the traditional, or the hard cider, black cherry – taking those and putting them with foods so that you get a new flavor profile going with those dishes.”
Candace Rose: What are some of your favorite desserts for summer?
Graham Elliot: “I love taking these like peaches and doing something like a peach cake or blackberries with some kind of lemon curd – things that you taste and immediately know what the weather is outside. They just scream summertime and the best ingredients are always the ones that you can eat and then wash your face with later, so watermelon, stoned fruits and all those things.”
Candace Rose: What are some of your top grilling tips for those of us who aren’t the best at it?
Graham Elliot: “I think one important thing is to make sure if you’re going to be cooking a steak, that you’re steak is already kind of at room temp. Pull it out about an hour before so it cooks nice and even.
If you’re doing burgers, a trick to keep them from overcooking and still keeping them a little pink is to put a little ice cube in the middle, that helps to keep it nice and cool.
When you’re grilling other things make sure that you have one part of the grill smoking hot, and the other part a little cooler so that one gets color and the other helps cook it through.”
Candace Rose: What’s the secret to throwing a great summer barbecue your guests will love?
Graham Elliot: “A big part of it is the ambiance. It’s not just the food, so you make sure you’ve got some great music going on and know your audience. If it’s some older friends coming in, your parents maybe, you want to do your Beatles, and Rolling Stones they can sing to. Maybe you get some great hip hop or some Journey and Bon Jovi, whatever you know is in the background and everybody loves.”
Candace Rose: No karaoke machines?
Graham Elliot: “Karaoke, maybe do that at 10 after all the eating is done and you want to make some bad mistakes!”
Candace Rose: Your new show “Craziest Restaurants In America” premieres tonight on the Food Network. Can you tell us about it?
Graham Elliot: “Basically we’re searching the country for some of the places that are completely doing their own thing, whether they’re scary restaurants or they’re doing super insanely hot things and showing that it’s not just fine dining or esoteric ingredients, it’s people that are doing fun food but in a totally different crazy setting.”
Candace Rose: There’s actually a restaurant called the Heart Attack Grill?
Graham Elliot: “The Heart Attack Grill in Vegas, they have a 9000 calorie burger…just to give you an idea.”
Candace Rose: “MasterChef” season 6 premiered a few weeks ago. How does this season differ from others?
Graham Elliot: “The biggest thing is that we have a new judge. Joe who was with us for five years – an amazing guy, he’s moving on to other things. We’ve got Christina Tosi who is an amazing baker and pastry chef, so coming in gives it a totally different dynamic to the show and just such a joy to be around.”
Candace Rose: Do you have any additional tips or information you’d like to share with us?
Graham Elliot: “One thing is if you want some of these recipes and ideas of why we’re pairing Mike’s with the dishes, it’s TastingTable.com/Mikes.
Another thing is if you go to GrahamElliot.com, you can see that I’m going to be doing my first ever cookbook coming out this fall, which is very exciting.”