Sep 20, 2023 - News

Meet Grant Gillon, Altoona's "MasterChef" finalist

Grant Gillock on the set of Masterchef

Grant Gillon (left) of Altoona and celebrity chef Aarón Sánchez (right) on set of "MasterChef." Photo: Courtesy of MasterChef

Grant Gillon of Altoona has always felt passionate about cooking, but he was unsure until recently if he had the chops to cook in the big leagues.

Driving the news: There isn't a question anymore, now that Gillon made the finale of "MasterChef" — the popular network cooking competition show that Gordon Ramsay hosts.

  • The finale airs Wednesday at 7pm on FOX.

How it started: Growing up in Altoona, Gillon always had an interest in cooking for fun — doctoring up pizzas, kneading dough and sprinkling herbs and spices, he tells Axios.

  • At the University of Iowa, Gillon's interest in cooking continued after he made a deal with his apartment roommate: He'd cook if the roommate cleaned.

State of play: His deep culinary knowledge sprouted later during a challenging time in his life.

  • In 2018, as he was going through a divorce and caring for a baby, he turned to YouTube late at night for relief. Gillon would watch Gordon Ramsay videos until the early morning hours and then try to make those dishes the next day.
  • He shared his creations on Instagram, where people encouraged him to apply for "MasterChef." In 2022, his now-wife encouraged him to audition and Gillon ended up on this season's show.
  • The director of sales at Kinship in Waukee is now exploring opening a farm-to-table restaurant in Altoona.

What they're saying: "I went in with a little bit of imposter syndrome," Gillon says. "I just gained this confidence. Getting the feedback from (judges) Gordon, Joe and Aarón is invaluable."

If you go: Meet Gillon during a watch party at Spectators Sports Bar and Grill starting at 5:30pm Wednesday.

Where Gillon eats in Des Moines

🥗 For happy hour: "We are definitely hitting Harbinger," Gillon says.

  • He orders the steamed buns and one of everything on the tasting menu.

🍔 For a burger: Clyde's Fine Diner in the East Village and Lachele's off Ingersoll.

🍝 For dinner: Aposto for the fresh pasta. "I think they have their own room for it, I don't think many other restaurants can say that."


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more