Who Is Graham Elliot?
If you’re a fan of food and television, then you’ve probably heard of Graham Elliot already. Elliot is a world-renowned chef. He is most famous for appearing on major cooking shows. He made early appearances on shows like Iron Chef America and Top Chef Masters. He has also been a judge on Gordon Ramsay’s MasterChef series since its first season, and judges the MasterChef Junior series.
Before television, Elliot was a rising star in Chicago’s food world. He worked for several fine restaurants and trained under the city’s best chefs before opening his own cookery. The first restaurant did well and put Elliot on the radar of network executives. Since then, he has been a household name among food network viewers and a powerhouse in the culinary world.
What Is Graham Elliot’s Net Worth?
Reasonable sources estimate Graham Elliot’s net worth to be $1.5 – 2 million dollars. This wealth is accumulated through Elliot’s ongoing TV appearances, as well as his successful Chicago restaurants.
He continues to make appearances on MasterChef, a widely popular cooking show entering its 7th season. He has been on the show since it’s opening season, working alongside superrich Gordon Ramsay. Ramsay has an estimated net worth of $140 million, mostly garnered from his television cooking empire.
Graham Elliot is a long way from Ramsay’s wealth, but the young chef has proven that he is skilled in the kitchen and deft at business. Elliot has honed his craft by travelling the US and the world, always searching for improvement in his dishes. At 39, there is still much more for the young chef to whip up in the kitchen.
A Chef At Heart
Elliot was born in Seattle in a Navy family. He travelled all over the United States and the globe as a child due to the service. This exposed Elliot to the wide variety of foods and flavors. He learned to appreciate the natural flavors of locally available foods. At 18, Elliot left high school to begin working in a restaurant.
Elliot started at the bottom of the culinary industry, working as a busboy and dishwasher before getting the chance to attend culinary school at Johnson & Wales University. There he developed his own approach to cooking. Elliot tries to highlight the natural flavor of ingredients and cooks them to their flavor peak. His approach is also playful and artistic, making his dishes beautiful and fresh for food connoisseurs.
After graduating, he cooked at the exclusive Mansion on Turtle Creek in Dallas, then the Jackson House & Inn in Vermont. He trained under famous chefs like Dean Fearing and continued to improve his craft. By 2004, Elliot was named one of Food and Wine Magazine’s Best New Chefs of 2004.
Cooking in Chicago
A rising star in the culinary world, Elliot quickly outgrew little Woodstock, Vermont where the Jackson Inn was located. He wisely brought his talent to Chicago, which promised greater opportunities to showcase his food.
In the windy city Elliot continued to attract high-profile mentors and prestigious accolades. He honed his skills under names like Rick Tramonto and the late Charlie Trotter. Elliot ultimately landed a job running the kitchen in Avenues at The Peninsula Hotel. He cooked his way to a four-star rating in all the major Chicago publications including Chicago Magazine, the Chicago Sun-Times, and the Chicago Tribune. Those honors were the springboard for Elliot’s career, and he became Chicago’s youngest Four Star Chef at 27.
Owning Restaurants in Chicago
Elliot had good business sense in addition to his cooking talent. He began opening restaurants in 2008, giving him greater opportunity to grow as a chef. Though some have since closed, all of his restaurants were popular and successful during operation.
He explored a wide range of cooking styles and was able to discover niches in the city’s dining market. At various times, he owned major eateries in Chicago’s fine dining, casual dining, lunch hour niches. He got to spread his food to a broad city audience, and refine his approach for a variety of tastes. These business ventures propelled Elliot to fame and are the foundation of his wealth today. Here are some of his establishments:
The Graham Elliot
His first restaurant, the eponymously named Graham Elliot, opened in Chicago’s River North area in 2008. The restaurant featured modern bistronomic techniques and was the first of its kind in Chicago.
The food was well received by the Chicago community. The Tribune gave the Graham Elliot a three-star rating. Even more impressive, the restaurant got a two star Michelin rating in the 2013 guide. Elliot’s was one of only two restaurants in the city to receive such high honors from the restaurant-rating body. Only one restaurant in Chicago, Alinea, has ever received a higher Michelin rating.
Elliot also founded a gourmet sandwich shop called Grahamwich. His playful cooking style translated well to sandwich construction. Grahamwich’s menu reflected Elliot’s appreciation for local food, and artistic approach to meal creation.
The menu features a twice-cooked turkey sandwich that pays homage to Thanksgiving. It is topped with stewed cranberries, candied yams and sage mayo. Grahamwich also served a grilled cheese sandwich accented with cheese curds and tomato marmalade. Elliot uses these masterfully, elevating a pedestrian sandwich into a gourmet experience with just a few light touches.
The eatery was widely promoted at opening in 2010, and there were serious discussions about expanding to other locations. Their menu was popular among Chicago’s lunch crowd, and their lobster corn dogs sold out at lollapalooza 2013.
So it came as a surprise to the city when Eliot when Elliot announced Elliot announced that he would be closing Grahamwich shop. Chicago’s food community reached out to Elliot’s team, but they offered no comment. Speculation abounds, but with no evidence of difficulties it is hard to guess Elliot’s reasoning. One thing is for sure, though: Grahamwich didn’t close for lack for customers!
Graham Elliot Bistro
By that time, Elliot had already opened a second full-scale restaurant. The rock-and-roll themed Graham Elliot Bistro opened for business in 2012. Located in the Chicago West Loop area, this restaurant features classic American cuisine cooked with traditional techniques.
The bistro’s menu reads like an old diner at times. Where else can you order a Milk & Honey to start and the Amish Chicken as an entrée? Dishes are playful and casual, yet constructed with the same attention to detail as fine dining.
Graham Elliot’s Secrets to Success
Graham Elliot owes much of his success to his dedication and hard-work. He fell in love with food as a boy and even left school to follow his dream. His career progressed each year, and he dared to travel wherever new cooking opportunities emerged.
This led him to Chicago, where he would become the household name we know. Chicago is a major US city, but still lags behind other metro areas in their fine-dining options. Elliot was able to capitalize on this open market for great food. After building a name for himself and learning from the city’s veteran chefs, Elliot continued to seek improvement.
He took on more responsibility by opening his own restaurant. The allowed him to experiment with menu items and continue improving his craft. The original Graham Elliot was a larger establishment with a formal dining atmosphere. This called for a premium menu catering to high profile clientele.
4. New Markets
Elliot’s other Chicago projects branched out from the original concept and allowed him to reach more of the city’s diners. Grahamwich was a more casual experiment. Though the food remained high-quality, focusing on easy-to-eat sandwiches meant a different customer profile for this restaurant. With Grahamwich, Elliot to tapped into Chicago’s routine diners. He could sell to workers on their lunch breaks, and could also sell his sandwiches all over the city at events.
Following those successes, The Graham Elliot Bistro was opened. Like Grahamwich, the bistro has a more casual atmosphere than the original Graham Elliot. It is smaller and provides a more intimate experience for guests.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Graham Elliot was smart enough to name his businesses after himself. While it is not always recommended to mix business and personal brands, chef/owners like Elliot have much to gain by attaching their names to their restaurants.
As his restaurant gained publicity and success, fans immediately knew the name of the personality behind the foods they enjoyed. When The Graham Elliot earned a two-star Michelin rating, the culinary community in Chicago and the world over paid attention. Since the restaurant was named after its owner, Graham Elliot the man became a household name.
This was a smart move, and it helped in his skyrocket to success. Graham Elliot has become a brand by himself now, and more people know him for his work on television than for his restaurants in Chicago. The Bistro is still around though, so check it out if you’re ever in the windy city.