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Graham Elliot gives Chicago chefs a leg up in advance of Saturday’s “MasterChef” casting call

Graham Elliot

Graham Elliot

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Updated: October 18, 2013 2:25PM

It’s obvious food is something I’m especially passionate about, what with hosting “MasterChef,” “MasterChef Junior” and “Covert Kitchens” and overseeing the restaurants I own around town. I’ve always felt cooking is a great way to express yourself and to be creative. Even my 2½-year-old son Conrad is following that path: It’s become our nightly routine to cook a late-night snack of scrambled eggs when I get home from the restaurant. He gets his stool, and he cracks his own eggs and stirs them until they’re perfect.

It’s really something working with kids who want to cook; on “MasterChef Junior,” I’m constantly amazed by the dishes they produce. I’ve definitely enjoyed some of their dishes more than those of our adult chefs. But with that said, we’re still looking for grown-up chefs who can bring the heat on the next season of “MasterChef.”

I know Chicagoans definitely can make the cut when it comes to creative, top-quality cooking  — and I’m eager to see what they bring to the table at the casting call Saturday. I’ll even dole out some tips for those who think they might be interested:

1. The Midwest is known for being humble, which our potential contestants can use to their advantage. Staying honest and true to yourself will help you advance in any kitchen. Cook something that you’re confident in and that you connect to — and make sure that your story comes through in whatever you make.

2. I’m hoping to see the “melting pot” that is Chicago come out in the food at the casting call. Ethnic dishes that have been in a family for decades, with an individual take or twist, are the ones that excite me most.

3. Take temperature into consideration. We know you aren’t going to be able to cook on-site at the casting call, so we won’t judge you on the temperature of the food. But it may be smart to stay away from food that has to be served extremely hot or cold. 

4. Use creative plating. If you’ve ever seen the show, then you know how important the design of a dish is. Be sure you express yourself — and make the dish look just as appealing as it tastes.

5. Make sure that your passion and positive attitude are both apparent. Show you have a desire to win. It’s not enough to love cooking; when you’re stuck in the trenches, we need to be able to see how you’re going to react.

If you or someone you know should audition, come to the casting. I’m looking forward to finding local chefs, then cultivating and inspiring their relationship with food on our show’s next season.

The “MasterChef” casting call will be held Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Le Cordon Bleu, 361 W. Chestnut. Register at

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