He's a shadow of his former self, but Graham Elliot is still pulling his weight on MasterChef. The reality-competition judge and acclaimed restaurateur (he runs Chicago's Graham Elliot Bistro) underwent bariatric surgery last year and has since dropped 150 pounds. But some things never change, such as his sunny disposition.
TV Guide Magazine: On MasterChef, you're the good cop sandwiched in between two bad cops — Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich. Are you ever tempted to be bratty like them?
Graham Elliot: It's just not my style. Gordon is Gordon, and I'm convinced that the name Bastianich is Italian for "plate thrower." I'm much better playing referee. And you know what? I learn so much from those guys! They're here to make the contestants better cooks, but I'm also a better cook because of them.
TV Guide Magazine: Ten years ago, at age 27, you became the youngest four-star chef in America. Did that shake up the restaurant biz?
Elliot: The profession is definitely a younger person's game now, and I'm already the old guard! Chefs at 16 or 18 are cooking at a level I didn't achieve until I was 25. We're even seeing that reflected in the little ones on MasterChef Junior. They're not going, "Look what I made in my Easy-Bake Oven!" They're preparing rack of lamb and discussing the subtle nuances of scallops. We judges try hard not to laugh because it's so fantastic!
TV Guide Magazine: You've said you lost weight to be a more physically active and involved father. Did a specific incident trigger the decision?
Elliot: You bet. I went to my son's kindergarten class to do a little Q&A with the kids and one of the boys took a soccer ball, put it under his shirt, and said, "I'm Mylo's dad! Look how fat I am!" I decided right then and there to make a change. I vowed never again to embarrass my children.
TV Guide Magazine: Heavyset comedians who lose weight often worry if they'll still be funny. Did you experience something similar?
Elliot: Absolutely. Will people still be able to relate to me if I'm not the big, jolly guy? Will they kick me off MasterChef? Will people still come to my restaurant? I went through it all, but then I realized that, even if I lost everything business-wise, the only thing that matters is my family. I have to be healthy for them.
MasterChef airs Mondays at 8/7c on Fox.