Cultured Cuisine – Graham Elliot’s Rib Steak Recipe
Renowned chef Graham Elliot has an eye (and a taste) for the finer foods in life.
Chef Graham Elliot likes to get crazy in the kitchen. Best recognized by his iconic white eyeglasses, he says it all in his Twitter bio: Top Chef judge. MLB food analyst. Lollapalooza culinary director. Restaurant partner. Cookbook author. Husband and father. World traveller.
In fact, Chicago-based Elliot has picked up international recognition as a chef and restaurateur, competing on Iron Chef and Top Chef Masters, but perhaps he’s best known as a judge on the MasterChef series and now, on Top Chef. Elliot was always interested in food, but his is not a fairy-tale story of a kid cooking from scratch in the kitchen. “My mom knew how to make three dishes and one was edible,” he laughs. “It’s not a great chef story of how we had a garden and my grandmother made sauce — it was more like macaroni in a box and microwave burritos.”
Elliot credits his dad, who was in the navy, as inspiration. “He’d come home and bring back curries and spices and talk about all the different foods he tried in other places and, when we lived in Hawaii, we would do spearfishing and pull something out of the water and cook it,” he says.
Because his dad was in the navy, they moved a lot when he was a kid, which also fed his interest. “I think a lot of it had to do with being exposed to different types of food, and I loved the idea of eating snails and frogs’ legs and octopus; things like that were always super cool to me,” he says. And so, at 17 years old, he started as a dishwasher at a restaurant. “I fell in love with the feeling and the energy of a kitchen and started the journey,” he adds.
I like bold flavours, lots of spices and herbs that deliver a ton of flavour
Elliot moved to Chicago to work in Chef Charlie Trotter’s restaurant, where Trotter gave him some good advice: if it’s not broken, then break it. Look to change things and reinvent stuff. It’s this approach to food — creative dishes prepared simply with quality, in-season ingredients — that Elliot brings to the table now. Take Walmart, for example, which is now making Canada AAA Certified Angus Beef readily available so dinner — grilled steak, corn relish and arugula salad, for instance — is easy to prepare.
Four years ago, Elliot had a sleeve gastrectomy, a major weight-loss surgery. “I was up to 400 pounds, I had a sore back all the time and I wasn’t able to tie my shoes,” he says. “I have three kids and it was no fun sitting on the sidelines and watching them play in the park because I couldn’t do it.”
Now Elliot’s healthier than he’s ever been. And his cooking reflects that. “I love working with seafood since I grew up around the ocean. I like light and simple grilling; I’m not big on braises or heavy foods, smoking or barbecues — I’ll eat it, but I wasn’t born and raised around that,” he says. “I like bold flavours, lots of spices and herbs that deliver a ton of flavour. Instead of a giant coffee, I’d rather have an espresso.”
He encourages everyone to get cooking and get creative in the kitchen. He suggests making a gazpacho soup with cantaloupe or peaches instead of tomatoes, for instance. And he doesn’t dismiss conveniences, like frozen foods, that make life easier. “I use frozen foods at home with my family; they’re a very good thing to have on hand,” he says. “The way they package vegetables like corn and peas, picked fresh from the farm when they are at their best, then frozen individually, means they’re tasty and quick to throw in a pan for a healthy stir-fry.”
What’s cooking in the kitchen now? His Chicago bistro will be reopening this year under a new name and a new concept. He’s opening up a new restaurant, Coast, in the upcoming MGM Cotai resort in Macau. And most exciting for Elliot, a big baseball fan, is Sheffield Counter, a pop-up restaurant that will operate this season at Wrigley Field with an all-star lineup of top Chicago chefs.
Mediterranean Style Grilled Rib Steak
Serves 4 / Prep Time: 5 min / Total Time: 15 min
- 4 6-oz (170 g) 100% Canadian AAA Angus beef rib steaks
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 cups canned garbanzo beans
- 3 tomatoes cut into quarters
- 1 red onion, shaved
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1 bunch fresh basil
- Preheat grill on high.
- Season steaks with salt and pepper, place on grill and cook for roughly 5 min on each side (or to your liking).
- Rinse garbanzos and mix with tomatoes, red onions, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
- Place garbanzo salad mixture on plate. Slice cooked steak into strips and layer atop.
- Garnish with fresh basil.
photo courtesy of graham elliot