The fifth season of FOX's cooking competition show "MasterChef" features a lot less of judge and chef Graham Elliot. It's not that he's going to be on the show less; it's that there's less of him to be on the show.
On this brisk and breezy February day at a school athletic field in a suburban town north of Los Angeles -- where "MasterChef" is shooting a special episode to air later this year -- Elliot has been tossing around a football with fellow judge Joe Bastianich.
"Joe's holding his coffee," Elliot tells Zap2it, "trying to catch one-handed. That was cute. Gordon (fellow judge Gordon Ramsay) plays the other football. He didn't jump in there much, but I know he'd kick all our a** in soccer."
One reason Elliot has the energy to toss a ball around is the weight loss -- more than 150 pounds -- he's experienced since having bariatric surgery in the summer of 2013. He had a sleeve gastrectomy, a procedure that reduces the stomach to the size of a banana. This helps Elliot stay on a low-calorie, high-protein diet.
He's taken up running and even considered a marathon -- or at least part of one. "That's what everyone's saying," says Elliot. "But my goal is, by October, the Chicago Marathon, to be able to do it. Right now, I can maybe do five miles without passing out, but to do five times that ... I did a 5K. Hopefully, to do a half-marathon would be awesome."
So how does a TV chef who can eat only tiny portions manage to taste contestants' dishes?
Says Elliot, "I can taste everything. I was worried about the show, because you've got to eat 20 portions of everything. It takes a long time to get through those -- small bites, taste, analyze. I still eat everything. I'm just enjoying it more. I can savor it."
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