Got a minute? America's youngest four-star chef, Graham Elliot Bowles, dishes on cooking for rock stars, baring his ass on YouTube, and his obsession with fake mustaches.
Q: You just came from cooking at Lollapalooza for Jane's Addiction and Kings of Leon. How was that?
A: It was beyond awesome. Someone like Perry Farrell is a huge deal. He helped create Lollapalooza and the whole nineties alternative movement. It was very cool to see him. He is 50, doesn't have an ounce of fat on him, and was wearing a gold-lamé coat with no shirt and bell-bottoms. Then you have Dave Navarro next to him, who doesn't even own a shirt.
Q: You play guitar yourself, right? What type of music do you favor?
A: I still play every day. Now it's mostly acoustic, indie, emo—whatever you want to call it.
Q: How hard was it to create an appetizer using only ingredients from a vending machine for Top Chef Masters?
A: I use all that shit in my restaurant [Graham Elliot in Chicago] every day, so I was like, Bring it. That's the one I was hoping for. God forbid I have to do actual cooking.
Q: What's your favorite vending-machine item?
A: Hostess cupcakes, always. The ones with the frosting and squiggly deal on the top and the goo—that's my deal.
Q: Your film-festival submission Made in Merka is getting a lot of hits on YouTube. Where did the idea for that video even come from?
A: A lot of people who visit the restaurant don't think Graham Elliot is a real person, so my sous chef Merlin Verrier and I decided to make it Graham and Elliot who put this restaurant together. I happen to fancy some cowboy stuff. So we figured, let's put these outfits on, do this interview. Even better, when we get up we won't have any pants on.
Q: Were you nervous about baring your ass to the world?
A: I didn't think anyone would watch it, but the screening was sold out. I was completely freaked out—sitting in the chair, sliding down to the floor—but there were three or four other movies with people showing their asses. It's like it was in season.
Q. Do you own a lot of costumes?
A: No, but it is fun to dress up as other people. Any time you can involve fake mustaches, things are just better. The restaurant did an event for Common Threads World Festival where we had to pick a country to represent, and we picked Colombia. We wore fake mustaches with aviator glasses and cigarillos. We then had mirrors on our table with lines of flour and an iPod that was playing Smuggler's Blues and the Miami Vice soundtrack. It was not p.c.
Made in Merka film-festival submission