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Follow Graham to Mexico!

Graham Elliot, chef extraordinaire, takes a journey of smiles to
visit Smile Train programs in Mexico.

This past weekend, my wife, Allie, and I had the amazing opportunity to witness up close, what Smile Train does day in and day out.

Saturday, March 8

2:30 p.m.
We arrived in Mexico City and were greeted by the most heartwarming welcoming party imaginable; a choral group of seven children, all of who had undergone surgery to repair a cleft lip or palate. We learned that not only did the singing boost the children's sense of self-esteem, but it also acted as a form of speech therapy that the kids actually enjoyed doing.

3:45 p.m.
After the joyous singing and dancing came to end, we drove out of the city to visit with Jasmine, a seventeen-year-old single mother of two. The newest addition to her family, a six-week-old baby boy name Ivan, was born with a cleft lip and palate. This was not caught during her routine ultrasound so it came as a total surprise, leaving Jasmine wondering what to do or where to even start.

Graham Elliot and Baby Ivan

Baby Ivan and me just after I finished giving him his midday bottle.

Graham Elliot, Allie, Ivan and Jasmine

Allie (left) holds Ivan as Jasmine and I play with Ivan's older sister.

We learned that she found out through a friend about Smile Train, and we're happy to say, little Ivan is scheduled to have his first surgery later next month. Allie and I are hoping to make it back down to Mexico City to assist in any way and be there for support. It's safe to say that Ivan will need some other surgeries and hurdles down the road, but with Smile Train's outreach and ability to create sustainable ways to repair clefts, he's most certainly set up for success.

Graham Elliot Sharied photos Conrad

Allie and I shared photos of our son, Conrad, who was born with a bilateral cleft, with Jasmine. Although we don't speak the same language, live in different countries, and have different lives, at the end of the day I'm still a parent worried about my baby and Jasmine is a parent worried about her baby. We are very much the same.

Graham Elliot Sitting with Jasmine


Sunday, March 9

8 a.m.
The next day, Allie and I found ourselves at the hospital, where we were introduced to the awesome people that make these operations possible. Now, I'm not just talking about the doctor or surgeon, I'm talking about the TEAM: nurses, orthodontists, hygienists, anesthesiologists, speech therapists, psychologists...even the custodian who keeps the place spotless and immaculate!

Smile Train Staff

Some of the staff that help make Smile Train surgeries possible.

You see, just as in the kitchen, you have to throw titles aside; nothing gets done unless everyone is on the same page, following the same vision, going into battle as a unit. After meeting the team and getting a tour of the facilities, Allie and I were introduced to Miguel, the two and a half year old who would be undergoing the operation that morning.

Having been in a similar situation with our own son Conrad (who was born with a bilateral cleft lip), we sympathized greatly with his mother and tried to comfort her during this emotional time, and did our best to reassure her that everything was gonna be great. We even showed before and after photos of Conrad's surgery so she could get a sense of what to expect.

Soon Miguel was whisked away to get prepped for surgery. Allie and I got into our scrubs and made our way to O.R. While the two of us had been in a hospital room before, we were always on the other side of the table. This was the first time we found ourselves shoulder to shoulder with talented nurses and doctors, who were focused like lasers on the task at hand.

Graham Elliot and Allie in Smile Train Scrubs

Allie and I in our Smile Train scrubs!

10 a.m.

Although Miguel's cleft went further into his mouth that usual (thus making the surgery more difficult), as expected, the operation went off without a hitch. Allie and I thanked the team, and while we were saying our goodbyes and thank yous, who were led into a room with another group of folks were waiting for us.

This group was made up of children and adults who had already undergone cleft palate surgeries and were there to show us the incredible changes that occurred in their lives as a result. Regardless of the fact that there was a language barrier, it was beautiful to hear their stories, to share our own, and to simply take comfort in the fact that we all wanted the same things for our children; a long, happy and healthy life. It was great to see firsthand that Smile Train is there to help turn those dreams into a reality."

Graham Elliot Fist Bumps Smile Train Patient

Fist bumps!

Grahm Eilliot high fives a Smile Train Patient

And high fives!

Grahm Elliot and Smile Train Patients

About Graham Elliot

Graham Elliot and Son Conrad

Graham Elliot is a critically acclaimed chef, restaurateur and television personality who also happens to be one of the most recognized faces cooking in America today.

Growing up a Navy brat allowed Graham the opportunity to travel the world and all fifty states, sparking an intense interest in food and music which led to his attending Johnson & Wales University.

Graham received three James Beard Award nominations, competed on Iron Chef and the first two seasons of Top Chef Masters, was named one of Food & Wine Magazine's "Best New Chefs" and became became the youngest Four Star Chef in the U.S., all before the age of 30.

In 2012, Graham was inducted into the Chicago Chefs Hall of Fame, named "Chef of the Year", and saw September 19th officially proclaimed as "Graham Elliot Day" in the city of Chicago by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

In addition to running his two restaurants: Graham Elliot Bistro in Chicago and Primary Food & Drink in Greenwich, CT, Graham is also a judge on Fox's MasterChef as well as Culinary Director of Chicago's Lollapalooza music festival.

When he's not traversing the globe in search of gastronomic inspiration, Graham resides in Chicago with his wife and business partner Allie, and his three children, Mylo Ignatius, Conrad Matthias and Jedediah Lindsay.

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