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'MasterChef Junior' judge Graham Elliot talks fatherhood, food and more

"MasterChef Junior" airs Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, on

"MasterChef Junior" airs Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, on Fox. Pictured here: judge Graham Elliot with one of the contestants. (Credit: Greg Gayne / Fox)

Fox's "MasterChef" judge Graham Elliot knows a thing or two about restaurants, food and fatherhood. The Michelin starred chef from Chicago owns three restaurants, appeared as one of the "MasterChef" judges for four seasons and is a dad to three boys, Mylo, 6, Conrad, 3, and Jedediah, 1.

Tomorrow, Elliot is joining his fellow "MasterChef" judges Gordon Ramsay and Joe Bastianich on the premiere of a new FOX series, "MasterChef Junior." This culinary competition features pint-size home cooks between the ages 8 and 13 who are aspiring chefs. The young contestants will showcase their culinary smarts through challenges and cook-offs, similar to the adult version of the show. Tune in Fridays at 8 p.m. on FOX.

I was able to catch up with Elliot recently about "MasterChef Junior," his kids and what's up next for him. Here's what he had to say:


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Q. What was the inspiration behind coming up with a junior challenge?
A. "Food is something that transcends all ages and generations; nowadays kids are more eager than ever to learn about what they're eating, where their food comes from, the story behind it, etc."

Q. Emotions often run wild on "MasterChef" with the adults. Do you and the other judges plan on toning down the criticism or altering how you judge since you'll be working with kids?
A. "In short, no. We knew the first thing people would expect would be for us to coddle the young contestants, but once you see how determined and talented they are, you'll see that it was necessary to hold them to the same standards as the adult version of 'MasterChef.' "

Q. What will the grand prize be for the junior winner?
A. "$100,000."

Q. Do your boys enjoy cooking with you?
A. "The one who has taken to cooking like a duck to water is my 3-year-old, Conrad. He helps prep, cook, stir and enjoys running through the coolers in my restaurants. He also has a large toy kitchen that he plays with, so I'm hoping he keeps the passion going!"

Q. What is your family's favorite meal?
A. "My wife's beef stroganoff."

Q. How has your career as a chef influenced your family's eating habits?
A. "I think I've tried to get the children acclimated to dining in restaurants as it's obviously a large part of our lives. We are also trying to focus on healthy, vegetable-centric dishes and making as much stuff at home as possible."

Q. What's up next for you?
A. "I'm working on opening a restaurant on the East Coast and exploring opportunities in Vegas. I also just finished a pilot called "Covert Kitchens" that will air this fall on SPIKE-TV."

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