Watching the fifth season premiere of Fox's culinary competition "MasterChef" calls to mind another TV contest, "The Biggest Loser." That's because judge Graham Elliot is almost half his original size, having lost an astounding 150 pounds since he underwent a surgical procedure called sleeve gastrectomy last summer. Elliot talked to MNN, explaining his decision and how it has changed his life.
"I got to 400 pounds, and realized that I don't have to accept this role in life as the big, round chef. Having three boys, [including] a new baby and health issues from blood pressure to sleep apnea, I realized that having joined a million gyms and trainers, I just wasn't able to do this on my own. So I decided to have the weight loss surgery, and I had a procedure that allowed me to still taste and eat everything, just not large amounts," he said. "I'm able to do the show, taste, go to restaurants, do tasting menus. It doesn't impact what I do with food at all, it's just the quantity that's the issue."
To the viewer, it seems like Elliot and fellow judges Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich eat an enormous amount of food on the show, which premieres on May 26, but Elliot says that it doesn't pose a problem. "We film over X-amount of hours throughout the day, and when they create their food we go around, we taste it, they bring the dishes up, we taste. I get a good amount on each fork to examine and look at and taste, to get an idea of why they made it, what process went into cooking it, and then taking all that into account. But I don't have to sit there and finish the entire plate.”
A before-and-after photo of chef Graham Elliot. (Photo courtesy of Graham Elliot)
One of Elliot's most memorable meals this season involves a beach wedding challenge in which contestants made a purple cauliflower puree that matched the bridesmaids' dresses. He described it as "very creative and fun." Of the initial 30 contestants, "One that really stands out to me is Christian, who has a story of living in his car and seeing his friend get shot, and all these really intense things that I think make him who he is as a person, and that dictates the food he puts on a plate," he said, adding that "the diversity as far as ethnicities, ages, regions, but also those life stories make them who they are."
As for his relationship with Ramsay and Bastianich, the Chicago chef and restaurateur has high praise for his fellow judges. "They're two of my closest friends. We get to talk all day up on stage, and then in between filming we're in our rooms and listening to music together and talking. I can text them both for advice whether it's 'Hey, I'm doing an event,' or 'What do you think about this restaurant concept?' It's like having two mentors next to me, and also two older brothers. They're also a big reason of my getting healthy. Both of them have done the Ironman Triathlon and are always speaking about how to be your best and things like that, so I give them a ton of credit.
"Elliot works out at least every other day and has become an avid runner. He just ran a 10K race, and will compete in the Chicago Marathon in the fall. Losing weight was the jumpstart he needed for good health, he said. "Then it's on you to follow through, and do it all."
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