In a riveting showdown on the Season 13 finale of MasterChef, Jennifer Maune, Grant Gillon, and Kennedy Grace battled fiercely for the coveted title, a gleaming trophy, a staggering $250,000 cash prize, a cutting-edge Viking kitchen, and a treasure trove of kitchen gadgets and utensils from OXO.
Grant Gillon, a 32-year-old director of sales at Kinship Brewing Co. hailing from Altoona, Iowa, and Kennedy Grace, a 26-year-old festival vendor from Denver, were locked in a neck-and-neck competition as they approached the dessert course of their three-course dinner. However, a dessert mishap by Kennedy gave Jennifer Maune, a 42-year-old lifestyle blogger from Little Rock, Arkansas, an opportunity to surge ahead, thanks to her impeccable dessert creation.
Ultimately, Grant’s steady and methodical approach to MasterChef secured him the championship, along with all the accompanying accolades.
Grant’s winning three-course menu consisted of:
- Appetizer: Ravioli al’ Uovo with morelle cream sauce, truffle butter, and shaved truffles.
- Entrée: Pork loin medallions with salmoriglio sauce, agrodolce, celery root purée, and beer-braised fennel and onions.
- Dessert: Torn stout cake with coffee stout mousse, chocolate pizzelle, and coffee ice cream.
Parade Magazine had the privilege of catching up with Grant for an exclusive interview just as his triumphant victory was poised to be unveiled to the world. Here is a glimpse into their conversation.
Interviewer: What does this victory mean to you?
Grant Gillon: It means the absolute world to me. This is something that, even unknowingly, I’ve been training for over the years, just cooking for friends and family. To have the encouragement and support from my loved ones to pursue my dream, and not only make it to the finale but actually win—it’s simply incredible. My initial goal was to make it through the Top 10, return home with my head held high, and say, “Hey, I gave it my best shot.” So, reaching this point is surreal, and it’s an experience I’ll never forget.
Interviewer: You faced formidable competition in Jennifer and Kennedy. Did that add to the pressure, or do you always compete primarily against yourself?
Grant Gillon: You can really only compete against yourself. I’m also a golfer, so I understand that concept well. You can’t control how the other person performs, so you have to give it your all, bring your A-game, and focus on your own performance. That’s precisely what I did.
However, you’re absolutely right—Jennifer and Kennedy are phenomenal cooks, and both presented outstanding menus that I thought were beautiful. That intensified the competition, especially after seeing their appetizers. I thought, “Alright, it’s game time.” It still feels surreal that I managed to come out on top against these two exceptional and talented cooks, and it’s an amazing feeling.
Interviewer: Have you returned to work at the brewery since your win?
Grant Gillon: Yes, for now, I’m still with the brewery.
Interviewer: Do you have plans to pursue a culinary career with the $250,000 prize?
Grant Gillon: Absolutely. My current goal is to open a farm-to-table restaurant right here in my hometown in Iowa. I want to give back to the community that has supported me throughout my life. This is where I was born and raised, and it would be wonderful to leave a lasting mark on the community for years to come. That’s the current plan, although I don’t have a specific timeline for it. I’m excited about the opportunity to bring that vision to life.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about your menu. You’re renowned for your pasta, but you encountered some challenges with the ravioli al’ uovo. Can you tell us what happened?
Grant Gillon: With that dish, the critical aspect is not to overcook the egg yolk. If that egg yolk doesn’t flow onto the plate as it should, it’s a significant mistake. Knowing that I had very thin pasta that would cook rapidly and wouldn’t provide much of a barrier for the egg yolk, I aimed to cook it slightly underdone. I intended to finish cooking it in the sauce, relying on the residual heat to complete the dish without overcooking the egg. However, I got that wrong.
I had been cooking in that kitchen area all season, but the intensity of the finale, with Joe Bastianich watching closely as I prepared the pasta, added an extra layer of pressure. So, if that was my hiccup, I’m okay with it. I believe that everything I did had a purpose, and I think they understood where I was coming from with that decision.
Interviewer: You mentioned that the dough was exceptionally thin. Did the time limit lead you to make thinner pasta than usual, making it challenging to handle it over the egg?
Grant Gillon: Yes, the time limit did play a role in making the pasta thinner than I would have preferred. Given the circumstances and the need for quick cooking, I opted for thinner pasta to ensure it would be ready in time. It did present some challenges, especially when trying to place it over the egg, but I made that choice based on the competition’s demands.