June 18, 2011 10:48 AM by Lisa Princ
After revealing the top 18 contestants this week on Fox‘s Masterchef, we had a chance to chat with Graham Elliot and Joe Bastianich. What did these two culinary gurus want to share? Read on to find out…
Masterchef judges Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot took some time out of their busy schedules to chat in a press conference about the show among other things. These two guys couldn’t have been any funnier or nicer! Here is what they wanted to share with us:
Question: What are your thoughts on Max? Is he going to be the villain this season?
Joe Bastianich: Well, I mean, I think he certainly has an economic advantage that the others don’t have. He has certain life experience that comes with his wallet. The question is does he have the maturity to take it to the next level. Just because you eat a lot of 4 star foods doesn’t mean you can cook it.
Graham Elliot: I would say that Max has a privilege and while that might afford him greater insight…..the thing is that he seems to be lacking is maturity and humility to cook from the heart and I think you will see that during the show.
Question: What is the criteria to win the mystery box challenge?
Joe Bastianich: You need to be able to think on your feet, like when you walk into the fridge after work and your girlfriend shows -you have to surprise her. They need to be creative and impress us with creativity and skill.
Graham Elliot: They have to be spontaneous. They must be able to take things in season and different flavors and put them together to make something awesome.
Question: Graham, do you really believe that God kills a puppy every time someone mangles a fish fillet?
Graham Elliot: [laughing] Absolutely, I stand by that claim.
Question: Do your personal lives factor in to certain dishes before you taste them?
Joe Bastianich: I can tell you this, I take this with dash of humility because I am not an expert on every food in the world, I try to step back and let Gordon and Graham take the reigns when needed. They just need to communicate their passion on the plate.
Graham Elliot: It’s one thing to go in with the understanding of different cuisines and styles, listening to your palate and having a clear mind when cooking. You want to be able to hear the story, history and whole story of the people. With that said if someone from Montana is cooking Chinese, it better be spot on.
Question: How have you noticed that the chefs changed this season as opposed to last season?
Joe Bastianich: This season we were lucky enough to have huger casting, more experience, more regional variety…just more and more and more of everything.
Graham Elliot: Yes this season we had people coming from all these different regions saying “I can do that better than season one” and it has reflected in the dishes being more restaurant quality.
Question: What is the worst “food crime” that someone can commit on the show?
Joe Bastianich: There are multiple infractions such as under seasoning, raw wine in food, truffle oil…what else Graham?
Graham Elliot: As you will see in coming episodes, we see the mistake of not cooking out flour in rues or putting cornstarch to thicken instead of letting it naturally reduce. You’ll see many little shortcuts that we always manage to find out about.
Question: Graham, your bio says you have musica talent…can you elaborate?
Graham Elliot: I used to sing and play guitar in a band. I actually record some of my guitar playing and put on playlists. I feel like I have only a couple of things I am good at so I highlight that in my restaurant.
Question: Joe, how do you balance everything you do?
Joe Bastianich: Very carefully. I interlace them over each other. For example, if I am in Italy I will do a triathlon and make wine. I just keep it real and keep my day full.
Question: Graham, do you prefer real life experience or culinary school?
Graham Elliot: Real life experience, I think culinary school is a joke. I went and I wish I took that money and went to NY and or Europe and got hands on experience.
Question: Do you have a bad habit in the kitchen that you can share with us?
Joe Bastianich: Since I don’t work in the kitchen, I go into the kitchen and harass the cooks, throw things at them and eat out of their pans…They don’t like that.
Graham Elliot: Wow, um, I don’t want to sound really confident, but I don’t think there are any bad habits that I have in the kitchen. I try to lead by example.
Question: Joe, why do you seem to give the humble contestants your help, but you give a hard to those that come off as full of themselves?
Joe Bastianich: I think that you really need to know it’s still an apprenticeship business – we kind of take a journey with these guys and take months and months to see where it takes them. We aren’t only there to judge them, but to tutor them, and if I am going to take this journey I want someone who will listen and take it all in. There is not much space for cockiness in the kitchen…that’s the reason why we don’t want to do deal with that.
Question: Graham, you are always so calm, do you ever just want to tell someone to get out?
Graham Elliot: Yeah…you will see that in a coming episode, but I try not to let emotion get in the way. Cooking at the end of the day should be a romantic, spiritual kind of act. But when they try to do or represent something that could be really cool or new and modern, then the experiment ends up as they fall on their face and they still think they are doing something great you have to shake them back into reality.
Question: It seems that this season the judging is more dynamic, like you all switch roles?
Graham Elliot: We all judge fairly based on our experience and with each new person that comes up, you have to take their personality into consideration.
Joe Bastianich: Also, people that piss you off. [laughing] (and then Joe apologized for that remark!)
Question: Did you expect so much more talent this season?
Joe Bastianich: We were lucky with our success in season one, so we were expecting to raise the bar but it was happily raised to a level we didn’t expect.
Graham Elliot: Every year contestants get better and better but as a whole we were amazed at the level of cooking and dining knowledge. It’s a different caliber of contestants this season.
Question: Do you keep in touch with season one’s winner?
Joe Bastianich: I actually hired several of season one’s contestants in my restaurants…they work for me.
Graham Elliot: Yes, as for Whitney – Joe, Gordon and I have all stayed in contact with her and supported her in her continued path.
Question: So your moms are coming to the show this season?
Joe Bastianich: Yes, the contestants will serve a menu to try and impress our moms and our moms will choose the winners.
Graham Elliot: Yes and my mom has always been on the crazy end. I was hoping she didn’t do something to embarrass us, but she was really sweet and I was very excited.
Joe Bastianich: I was hoping my mom didn’t smack me!
A huge thank you to Joe Bastianich and Graham Elliot for speaking with us!
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Photo credit: FOX