"This agrodulce with the raisins, you can put that on a dirty boot and eat it," Aarón said. "It's that good."

Sunday 1st October 2023

There was a moment in the MasterChef Season 13 finale when contestant Grant Gillon threw his arm in the air. It was a triumphant gesture for the 32-year-old beer salesman from Altoona, Iowa.

He had just completed the last course — a torn stout cake with coffee ice cream, a chocolate pizzelle, and a mousse. And without the judges having tasted it yet, Grant felt confident about his chances at winning MasterChef: United Tastes of America. "At the end of the dessert plating, I thought I had it. I knew I hit every single point that I wanted to and that this is mine to lose right now."

Contestant Grant in the season finale.

Sure enough, Grant beat contenders Jennifer Maune and Kennedy U. to win the MasterChef Season 13 title.

Like he expected, his dessert was a hit among judges Gordon Ramsay, Aarón Sanchez, and Joe Bastianich. Earlier in the finale, they also praised the contestant's entrée (pork loin medallions with salmoriglio sauce, agrodulce, celery root purée, and beer-braised fennel and onions. "This agrodulce with the raisins, you can put that on a dirty boot and eat it," Aarón said. "It's that good."

And though Grant's appetizer — a raviolo al uovo with morel cream sauce, truffle butter, and shaved truffles — received criticism for being undercooked, it still impressed with its golden, runny egg yolk. Grant described his menu concept as "Italian heritage meets Midwest roots," and he also aimed to incorporate beer across the dishes to show that the ingredient has place in fine dining.

L-R: Host/judge Gordon Ramsay, judge Aarón Sánchez, contestant Grant, and judge Joe Bastianich

MasterChef: United Tastes of America was all about the different regions of the U.S. When the 20 contestants were selected, each represented either the Northeast, the Midwest, the South, or the West. With his win, Grant claimed the title not only for himself but for the Midwest.

"Being able to win United Tastes of America and represent not only myself but represent the Midwest, represent Iowa, represent my hometown of Altoona is just incredible. When I watch reality TV, if somebody's from my state, I'm gonna root for them inherently. And this year, even if there wasn't somebody from your state, you could still root for your region. To be one of the five that were picked from the Midwest to be on the show and then to the finale to win it, [I'm] just super proud."

L-R: Contestants Jennifer, Grant and Kennedy in the season finale.

"My goal is still to open a farm-to-table restaurant right here in my hometown of Altoona. And so just figuring out how to do that correctly. I want to make sure I make the right connections with farmers in the area and then go from there. But it's definitely going to be a lot of that Midwest, definitely some Italian; there'll be pasta on the menu for sure."

"And then try to bring in and highlight — Iowa, we have a lot of really great local breweries - we're very spoiled when it comes to that. So being able to highlight some of those and use them not only in cooking but have them available to guests. Everything here is from Iowa, everything here is from down the road, and I just think that's super special.

L-R: Contestant Grant with judge Aarón Sánchez in the season finale.

Since winning the title in fall 2023, Gillon has been treating his Altoona, Iowa neighbors to gourmet dishes, teaming up with Chef Aaron Holt to bring haute cuisine to the area. Despite his filming commitments, Gillon's family remains his main support.

Nowadays, he and his son create heartwarming TikTok recipes together. Gillon's ultimate goal is to open a farm-to-table restaurant, possibly using pop-up dinners as a test run. His mission? Strengthening the bond between communities and local food producers while educating consumers.

MasterChef is produced by Endemol Shine North America and One Potato Two Potato and is based on a format created by Franc Roddam. Elisabeth Murdoch, Danny Schrader, Jennifer Fazey, Gordon Ramsay, Pat Llewellyn, Ben Adler, Sharon Levy and DJ Nurre serve as executive producers.

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Photo Credits: FOX.