(lively classical instrumental music) (lively classical instrumental music) - Celebrity chef Graham Elliot is bringing his Michelin Stars to Midland.
With the opening of Cowboy Prime.
Chef Elliot is a critically-acclaimed chef, restaurateur, and television personality.
At age 27, Chef Elliot became the youngest four-star chef to be named in any major U.S. city.
And was named one of "Food and Wine Magazine's" "Best New Chefs" in 2004.
In 2008 in Chicago, he opened his restaurant, Graham Elliot, which went on to become one of only 15 restaurants in the U.S. To be awarded two Michelin Stars.
His accolades include multiple James Beard Foundation nominations, as well as being named one of Crain's "40 under 40" alongside President Obama and Oprah Winfrey.
Chef Elliot served for 10 seasons, as co-host and judge for Fox's "Master Chef," and "Master Chef Junior."
He has appeared on Bravo's "Top Chef," and "Top Chef Masters," the Food Network's "Iron Chef America," and PBS's "The Great American Recipe."
The second season, of which, is coming this summer.
He has worked in kitchens of some of America's top restaurants, including The French Laundry.
A Michelin Star for a chef is like an Oscar for an actor, or a grammy for a singer.
The highest honor bestowed.
Chef Elliot is not in Midland for long, but is here to launch Cowboy Prime.
To develop its menu, and set standards for preparations.
We recently sat down with the chef to talk about his story career.
During our time together, he talks about how Texans taste, differ from those of other regions.
How he develops recipes, how he plates.
He gives advice for home cooks, and talks about the evolution of television cooking shows.
On many of which he has appeared, including one, on Basin PBS.
He has something to say about Midland water.
And he even ventures from the kitchen into politics.
After our talk, Chef Elliot invites us into his kitchen.
Where we watched the master at work.
Chef, I thank you so much for sitting down with us.
You have two Michelin Stars.
And for the uninitiated, that's like having an Oscar, or an Olympic gold medal.
So talk to us about Michelin Stars, and what it takes to get one.
- Yeah, so what's amazing is the "Michelin Guide," it's been around a hundred years, and it showcases what places are worth hitting if you're driving by, or which ones are like, you should plan your trip around hitting these places.
And so when I received our first one, it was incredible.
Eventually got our second, we were one of 15 restaurants at the time in the country to have that.
Yeah, once you receive it, then you gotta kind of upkeep it.
Every year, you're getting judged again.
So, it keeps you on your toes.
And I always feel that you don't wanna just be driven by getting these awards, or accolades, but it is nice to have that acknowledgement of what you do.
- So you're bringing your Michelin Stars to Midland.
Tell me what brought you here?
- So I partnered with Felipe Armenta, and now we have Far Out Hospitality Group.
We're opening new restaurants, and this was our first one.
Next door, he's actually a partner-owner of Cork and Pig.
And so we decided, okay, you got this amazing town, this great space, what do we wanna do?
And it's our first white tablecloth restaurant.
So, to come out to Midland, and provide a new restaurant that no one else is really doing, but discussing and talking to all the locals, is something that everyone wanted, and wished was here.
So it's just been a remarkable opening.
We're busier than we ever thought we would be.
And people seem to really like what we do.
- Well, you used the word "Fine Dining."
What does that mean?
- I think 'Fine Dining,' it's more refined dining, if you will.
It's the level of service, the attention to detail, the quality of the ingredients.
We're getting in a $5,000 piece of beef from Japan.
That, we're charging $120 for four ounces.
But it's not like, it's an egregious amount.
Literally, this is what it cost us, and this is what we're doing.
We wanna educate and show people what it is.
And to have 20 people a night be like, "I wanna try that.
"That was the best beef I had in my life."
And then be able to say "Come look over here, "this is where we get the meat, and this is what we do."
That to me is fine dining.
It's not $1,000 a person, French restaurant.
You know, where it's super-stuffy.
We're playing loud rock music, country.
It's wear whatever you want, come in, have a good time.
But the food, service, ambience, et cetera, are much different.
I don't think there's any place in a 100 miles that has this.
- Well, talk to me about choosing Midland.
- Yeah so Midland obviously, there's a great clientele and people that are international coming here.
People that are born and raised like yourself.
And then, a lot of income, and they're wanting this experience.
So to look at a map and say, "We'd love to eventually do something in Austin, "or over here in Houston."
You look at Midland, you realize it's an untapped market.
There's a bunch of fast-food places.
There's a couple of, these type of restaurants, but there's not a lot of chef-driven, independent places.
And so for us to be able to come in and do it, I think we're gonna hopefully inspire other places to do something similar, right?
It's kind of like if Michael Jordan is on the basketball court, everyone plays better around him, you know?
Not that I'm saying we're the example, but if I had a restaurant down the street, or anywhere else where I was a chef, I'd be like, "I had no idea that there was such foodies here."
And Midland people are willing to pay that, and they're full every night saying, "We don't have anything like this, "and we always wanted a place like this."
"So now, we're gonna up our game."
So I think you'll see that level rise.
- Well, I know you have traveled all over the world, and have been in every state in the United States.
Can you talk about the tastes of Texas, now that you've been here for awhile?
- Yeah, every state, if you will, or region, does the best of what they have.
Anywhere around the world, Vietnam to France, et cetera.
I always say people don't wake up saying they wanna eat snails or frog legs.
That's what you have.
So, when you look at Texas, with the fact that, you're so far south, as far as the geography.
And then, the whole fact that this was all Mexico not too long ago.
- [Becky] Right.
- So to have a German influence come in, as well, all of that history goes into what Texas is with its food, but also, I think, the approach, the tough, independent spirit, I think that carries over into the food.
It's not just flavors, like "Oh, chilies, and corn, "and a lot of beef."
It's how do you take all that influence and put it into something new, and make it its own.
And I think Texas does that really well.
- Well, I wanna talk about how you're doing that.
Because one of the things that I know you like to do is develop recipes.
So I want you to talk about generally how you develop recipes.
And specifically, how you develop recipes for Midland.
- Yeah, so with recipes, it's almost perverse to where I'm driving down the street, and see the red light turn green, and I'm like, "Oh, green.
Asparagus and broccolini, "a bunch of herbs, what can we do?"
Like, I'm always looking at stuff and getting inspired.
Whether it's through nature, or what the weather is.
That kind of stuff.
I also love the collegial approach, where in the kitchen, I have someone from Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Mexico, California, Baltimore; all of us are in that kitchen.
And we each only know what we know.
But literally bring to the plate something new.
So I'm doing a potato bisque.
And then someone will say, "Yeah, but in Mexico, "we can do this, we grind the corn this way, "and we can do like a corn soup."
"Oh, that sounds awesome.
What should we serve with that?"
And someone will say, "Well you know, "we used to do grilled shrimp and corn."
It's like, "Oh, maybe we marinate the shrimp, "and do it this way in the corn soup."
And so, everyone's got a hand in what we do.
And I think that in Midland, knowing that it really is meat-focused, right?
It's not a stereotype.
It's like at lunch, we sold 100 ribeyes.
It's the real deal.
So okay, what can we do to make those more unique?
Do we do a cabernet reduction?
Do we do a smoked hollandaise, or do we smoke the butter?
Do we do this kind of cool cilantro chimichurri, so it's a little more Mexi, Texi influence?
So I think that's what we get to do here.
We kind of start with this idea, and then work backwards, tweaking the dishes.
- Now I wanna talk about your cookbook.
And it's called "Cooking Like a Master Chef."
And you say in your cookbook, or at least in the sales pitch that Amazon gives, that you want everyone to cook.
You want everyone to push up their sleeves, and get some good food on the table.
You say you want to show home cooks the basics of cooking, and combining flavors.
And then urge them to break the rules, and put their own spin on great meals.
So talk about your approach to your cookbook.
- Yeah, I mean not even just the cookbook, but I always say, "It's not black and white, "it's gray area."
If today it's beef tartar, tomorrow it's a burger, next day it's carpaccio.
None of those are better/worse than any other, right?
It's a different iteration, it's a style.
A carrot can be pickled, roasted, grilled, in a salad, carrot juice, carrot cake.
It's all in the expression of the carrot.
So what I do in the cookbook is say, "This is what I do, this is the dish that I would make."
But, you should be able to deconstruct it, and then put it together how you want.
Like, if it's not broken, break it.
Like I love stroganoff, but instead of egg noodles and mushroom soup and ground beef, I'm gonna do a short rib, and gnocchi, and truffle puree.
Like how do you keep- - Okay!
- Doing new things?
And that's what I want people to be able to do.
- With your?
Okay, I love that.
I love that.
Okay, one of the things that you have been recognized for is your innovative plating.
I was watching an episode of, I think, one of the Canadian shows that you were on, where they brought out this giant box.
And they took the top off the box, and there you were, laying in the box.
- [Chef Elliot] Yes.
- It was quite impressive.
But anyway in the introduction, they talked about how you're sort of famous for your plating.
So I want you to talk about plating, and why you think it's important?
- You know, putting ingredients together, leading the kitchen, doing recipes, cooking in the season, using local stuff.
All of those are the foundation for being a chef, or should be.
And when you look at the dish itself, the way that I am, playing music, or anything.
It's like spontaneous, and how you feel.
So, if I'm plating this right here.
And I'm much happier, instead of a French restaurant, where it says, "All right, that's the meat, "and then I want one piece of asparagus here, "with one dot of sauce there."
Like, if you do that all night, go work at the Ford factory, and just build a car.
I want someone to say, "Let's cut the steak this way.
"And then put like asparagus all over, and the sauce here."
(Becky laughing) Because you want it to look like you're walking in the woods, and stumbled on it.
Like it's natural, it's beautiful.
I don't like things placed in perfect.
I think that looks not just fussy, but it's like art.
You wanna look at something natural and gorgeous, as opposed to just Mondrian, you know, 90 degree angles.
- So, first you eat with your eyes.
- Yeah, I think you eat with your eyes, and your heart, right?
You look at something, that looks so cool.
Like, how did they do that?
- Your career has been so varied.
You have, well, you told me you started out washing dishes.
- [Chef Elliot] I did!
- And then you got into the restaurant business.
And were extremely successful there with your Michelin Stars and your accolades with "Food and Wine Magazine."
All of your television appearances and shows, which we're gonna talk a little bit more about in just a minute.
But you are now entering sort of a different endeavor, in which you are a partner in a restaurant group.
Talk a little bit about that.
- Yeah, so Felipe Armenta is one of the most successful chef restaurateurs in Texas.
Has 14 places, we just opened this one.
We're opening new ones.
So I have the opportunity to partner with him, in this group, Far Out Hospitality.
And we're going to be opening in the next nine months, another Cowboy Prime in the stockyards in Fort Worth.
Le Margo, which is gonna be our French bistro, as well as F1 Smokehouse, which is gonna be our barbecue joint.
And all of these are happening really quickly.
And to be able to come in, create a menu, help train, get everyone on the same page.
From menus to playlists, uniform, et cetera.
Creating that vision idea, and then being able to go do the new one.
It's again, it's like music where you get to have a lot of different bands and you're part of it, as opposed to just this one thing.
So it's, yeah, it's a dream come true.
We have an amazing team that in the last six months have moved from all different corners of the country to live in Texas.
Like, we're all there full-time doing these new places.
- Well, welcome.
- [Chef Elliot] Thank you.
- We're glad y'all are here.
- [Chef Elliot] Thank you.
- Okay, I wanna talk about television cooking shows.
James Beard back in the 40s, and of course, Julia Child in the 60s.
But in the 90s, the Food Network.
And now there are so many millions of people.
- [Chef Elliot] Changed everything.
- That watch food shows.
And so do you think it's made us better cooks?
Or better eaters?
Or just voyeurs?
It's an interesting question, but I do feel that it inspires everyone.
Food is something that we all do, that we all eat.
Hopefully you have some memories of being around the kitchen table, and talking to your parents, or family.
But I love that people still have an opportunity to watch some shows where they can really learn.
This is where it's from, we're talking to the locals.
We're going to the market and cooking together.
That's more rewarding for me as a viewer than, "You have 10 minutes left to cook with "one hand behind your back, and oh my gosh, "they stole your knife."
Like, I understand it's fun, that's where it's a little more than just voyeur armchair chef.
"I would of put the beef on top of the salmon."
"But I mean, that's why I would of won."
But, maybe I'll do the show next year.
But I love really being able to see something and learn from it.
- Okay now, you're one of the judges on a PBS show, a cooking show.
And since we're PBS, I wanna talk a little bit about that.
- [Chef Elliot] Yeah, of course.
- It's called "The Great American Recipe."
And it's returning for its second season.
I believe this summer.
- [Chef Elliot] Yes.
- That's about home cooks, is it not?
- [Chef Elliot] It is.
- Tell us about that show.
- Yeah so, "Great American Recipe."
You have people from different corners of the U.S. Coming and telling their story through food.
So you have somebody that's got a Vietnamese background.
Someone who's from the South, someone that's from Rhode Island, New England.
And they all do their own style.
And instead of saying "This is the dish you have to make."
"You have one hour."
It's more, "We want you to do a dish "based on your grandparents, "and what they brought to the New Country."
And what, you know- - I love that.
- And someone will make the best tomato sauce in the world.
Someone else will make a Greek grilled meat kabob dish, that their dad used to do.
- So, that's where the learning comes in.
And then, I can come in, and I'm not gonna be the judge that says, "You know, your Indian Curry, "I would have added more spice."
'Cause they're gonna be like, "My mom didn't.
"How long did you live in India."
So you try to as a chef say, "Technique-wise, I think if you do this, "it will make it silkier, a better texture."
You know, if potatoes are undercooked, I know that.
- [Becky] That's probably, yeah.
But on the flip side, you're trying things, and you really wanting to know that story.
So even if the food doesn't look as beautiful as this one, the fact that they're telling you the hundred reasons why they make this, and how important it is, that's what's- - [Becky] There's points for that.
- Yeah, exactly, a thousand percent.
Sell us the idea of what you're doing.
- So, you were here for awhile to open this beautiful restaurant.
Tell me how you help a new restaurant maintain its standards after you are gone.
- So, it's interesting because of Zoom, Instagram, social media, texting, FaceTime, et cetera.
I can almost be here in realtime and check things.
I can see if somebody tonight came in and posted a picture of a steak, and it wasn't exactly what I am hoping for.
But those are like, where you kind of are constantly, not playing catch-up and looking at things in a different way.
- [Becky] Right, right.
- But you create a vision and philosophy, and sell that to the team to where they're not only upholding the standard, they're able to elevate.
And be like, Chef Graham, you showed us how to do this.
But, we were thinking the other day, what if we roasted it this way instead?
And that's where it's like, yes.
I don't need to be here all the time.
- That's right.
- You are here all the time.
- And you bought in.
- You should run and come up with these things.
It shouldn't be all of the sudden, you get the title of chef, and now you care, right?
It's like everyone should be the chef right now, anyway.
- Okay, I wanna talk about being a chef in my own kitchen.
Or somebody else being a chef in their own kitchen.
What is the biggest mistake a home cook makes?
Like everyone's worried and scared when they cook, I feel.
"Did I mess up the recipe?
It called for one teaspoon.
"Did I mix this right?
How hot should I keep the pan?"
I feel like I get more questions, phone calls, et cetera, about stuff like that.
Than, "Hey, what should I make with this?"
Or, "I got this cool idea, what do you think?"
I think if you realize that food is taking something raw, and making it cooked by putting fire on it.
It's very simple.
Here's a pan, get it hot.
Here's the ingredients, make sure it's seasoned.
And then you learn, do you want it well-done, or rare?
You know, it's all timing.
But if you have hot pans and sharp knives, you should pretty much be able to make whatever.
But I do think that people get super-scared, having to follow a recipe, worried they're gonna go astray.
And I think it's like cook more intuitively, and just- - Just relax.
- Open the fridge, see what you want, feel it.
- And just go for it.
- A thousand percent.
- Okay, I'm gonna ask you a food-related, restaurant-related, cooking-related political question.
- [Chef Elliot] Ah!
- Now some consumer groups have come out recently suggesting that gas stoves emit, I guess, fumes that are dangerous.
And a couple of states, California, I think, and New York, have said that going forward, people can't install gas stoves.
I assume you're a devotee of gas cook tops.
Am I right?
- Yes, yes.
And I'm also, I would say life is broken into these two halves, and I'm approaching that first half being done.
And you take, and the second is giving back.
And I think almost more than music or food, my biggest passion is politics and history.
I hope to eventually run for office, that's my goal.
So it's funny that you're bringing up.
Well, you would say- - The gas stove!
- Politics, yes.
So my thing is again, being every part of this country, you understand that each one is different, and has it's own philosophy behind it.
And also the certain concerns.
If I'm in West Virginia, or Kentucky, Ohio, certain places, where it's, these are the jobs that we have.
This is me trying to pay rent.
This is the opioid addiction, this is reality.
The idea that over in California, it's this is my Tesla, because of the greenhouse gases, we feel now that the government now needs to tell people to change out their... That's when the rest of the country is what in the?
Is going on?
You know what I mean?
Why is this somehow what we're focused on?
When there's inflation and everything else.
So I think it's great to be idealistic and have an idea of your stove should one day be able to emit nothing.
And then, there's other people that are like, I have to start a fire in my backyard to cook on, because I don't even have a stove.
Much less, changing out my electric one for?
You know what I mean?
I don't have water- - Well, how would you?
- You drink the water in Midland?
- Yeah, yeah.
- I'm more concerned about the flavor.
- I'm just saying.
It's like soup, or broth.
- Watch yourself.
- It's been seasoned.
- Watch yourself there, Chef.
- That was good, you wanna come seasoned, like soup.
- All right, but you like cooking on gas.
I like cooking on gas.
- [Chef Elliot] Gas fire, yes.
- So what would you cook, if you couldn't cook on gas, what would you cook on?
- Probably an induction burner.
I think it's smart.
You can put a pan on it, it gets hot.
You take it off, you can put your hand out.
So it conducts heat differently.
But yeah I love, I guess what you would call old school.
Just a flame, and a cast iron pan, or skillet, or a copper pot.
Where a good cook can go back in time, and realize what your great-grandma was making.
What someone in France was cooking with 200 years ago.
And so yeah again, I don't like people kind of getting in the way, for whatever reasons, and saying what you can, and can't do.
- [Becky] Right.
Okay, two more quick questions.
What is the most challenging thing about being in the restaurant business?
- Work/life balance, for sure.
But I always say this isn't, for all of us, whether it's front of the house, working in wine, in the bar, dishwashing.
It's not what you do, it's who you are.
Like you live this.
I go home at 10, fall asleep at 12 or one, and get a few texts, and up at eight to come here back at 10 for lunch.
And in between, you're working on menu ideas, you're trying to think of this person's leaving, this person didn't show up, how do we fix this?
Where, the idea working nine to five, and having your kids at the dinner table every night, on weekends taking them to soccer and like, it's a completely another planet.
- [Becky] That's just not who you are, that's right.
- And it's not gonna happen.
And I'm sure there's people in New York on Wall Street that have that same work ethic in life.
There's the military, like my dad moving around on a ship for seven months at a time, not home.
I feel like you're kind of destined for this path- - You do it for love.
- Yeah, and I still literally have to pinch myself, I cannot believe I can pay bills doing this.
Because I'd do it for free.
I get some incredible tuna flown in from Hawaii today.
And I get to cut it up and cool.
Cook and do raw.
It's 30 bucks a pound, it's the coolest thing in the world to play with.
- [Becky] What's not to love?
- And like I said, I get paid to do it.
- Well, I think you just answered my second question.
Which is, what is the most pleasurable part of being in the restaurant business?
- The creative outlet, as well as, being able to have instant gratification of the dish you make.
And then, going and talking to guests, and having them... Yeah.
That's the best thing, again, in Midland, is every table I go up to, it's not just yeah, yeah it was good.
It's, they stand up, they hand shake, "Jim Jones, good to see you.
"And we love that ribeye, "it's the best thing we've ever had."
It's like- - I love that.
- This is why- - I love that.
- Is why I do this.
- Thank you, Chef.
- Thank you!
- Appreciate you.
- [Becky] As we always do on "One Question," we end with a bit about art.
This time, the paintings on display at Cowboy Prime.
They are the works of Linda Blackburn.
Who was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1941.
In 1962, she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Painting from the University of Texas at Austin, and met her future husband, Ed Blackburn.
In 1965, she earned her master's in painting from the University of California at Berkeley.
Best-known for her paintings inspired by Western films, Blackburn has been an important voice in the Texas art scene for decades.
Her work shifted over time from traditional portraiture to more abstract paintings.
And most recently, painterly depictions of the West.
In a 2018 review of Linda Blackburn, "The Law of the Saddle," Christina Reese noted, "At times Blackburn goes so dry and thin with the paint, "that she essentially paints ghosts.
"None of the paintings are overworked, or under-worked.
"It takes years of experience to understand "how to both push through and pull back on an idea.
"And Blackburn brings tremendous authority "to these paintings."
Though both artists worked independently, Linda Blackburn and her husband worked collaboratively, and showed their work together on a number of occasions.
Blackburn has exhibited work across the state, at significant institutions, including the Contemporary Arts Museum of Houston, and the Dallas Museum of Art.
Her work has also been exhibited in prestigious museums beyond Texas.
Linda Blackburn, a well-known and respected Fort Worth-based artist, died unexpectedly of natural causes on January 1, 2022.
Her works at Cowboy Prime are from Baker Schorr Fine Art of Midland.
Finally, thank you for joining us for this special edition of "One Question."
We will be back periodically with special interviews of interest.
I'm Becky Ferguson, good night.
(lively classical instrumental music) (lively classical instrumental music) (lively classical instrumental music)