Richard Blais

Chef, Author

Atlanta

Richard Blais has been a successful chef and restaurateur in Atlanta for more than 12 years. While attending the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he worked and studied at The French Laundry under chef Thomas Keller and alongside Alinea’s Grant Achatz and CityZen’s Eric Ziebold. After graduating in 1998, he worked in New York with Daniel Boulud at his flagship restaurant, Daniel, and completed a brief stage at Spain’s elBulli with famed chef Ferran Adrià. The Top Chef All-Stars winner is also chef/owner of Atlanta’s The Spence and multiple outposts of Flip Burger Boutique. His first cookbook, Try This At Home, was released in February 2013, and is based on recipes he prepares at home or in his restaurants for his staff. Blais is set to open his newest eatery, Juniper & Ivy, in San Diego in February 2014.

  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What are the best farmers markets in Atlanta?

    We find ourselves up at Peachtree Farmers Market. I certainly love Morningside. That’s probably the one I frequent the most, since that’s close to my house. They have a lot of vendors there that I use in the restaurant. So it’s nice to go up there and see Crystal Organics or Riverview Farms selling the same stuff to everyone else. It’s fun. I live pretty much right on Piedmont Park. Piedmont Market is nice as well, even though there’s not usually a lot of food there; it has more crafty artisan, prepared stuff. I love Buford Highway Farmer’s Market. I love any sort of international market, really, anywhere in the world. I love Star Provisions. I think it’s a great example. It’s expensive, but there’s definitely a certain feel and vibe in there, and they procure some interesting stuff. To be a good cook or a good chef, the first thing you need to do is shop well. I love Star Provisions whether I’m buying a handbag for my wife or a bottle of French vinegar. It’s a pretty special place for Atlanta.

    That being said, I like to find the international aisle at any market. Even Whole Foods now has some unique stuff in the international section. You can even find clarified butter. Everyone knows how to make clarified butter, but it’s kind of a pain, to be honest — it takes a long time, and it’s expensive. But if you can find a jar of it, called ghee, in the Indian section of the supermarket — those are the little tips that I love sharing with the home cook. Those are actually a lot of the things that help me cook better on TV when I’m competing or presenting. To be able to just travel with a jar of clarified butter rather than take two to three hours to make it.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What are the best Atlanta museums?

    The High is a world-class place. I haven’t been in a while. You almost want to take a couple of days in Atlanta, act like you don’t live here and enjoy all of those things you take for granted. The Center for Puppetry Arts is great. We catch three or four shows a year with the kids.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What are the best places for brunch in Atlanta?

    As a family, we go to Highland Bakery a lot because it’s close to our house. We like the vibe. I’m thinking of opening The Spence for brunch because I love the service period for the meal.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What are the best neighborhoods in Atlanta?

    The Westside; Little Five Points — it’s a colorful neighborhood. I love especially on a slow Sunday morning running through downtown. I love the architecture of downtown. And Virginia-Highland, Ansley Park, Piedmont Park, Midtown — I like my own neighborhood.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Hayley Bosch is now following Richard Blais
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What’s the best time to visit Atlanta?

    I would say during the beginning of our spring. It’s getting a little warmer out, but there’s still snow on the ground in New York and Chicago. That’s the best time of year for me. Or during football season.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What are the best things to see and do in Atlanta?

    My favorite things to do in Atlanta are:

    1. Take a good long run, especially now that the Beltline is intact.

    2.  I’m a huge baseball fan, so I think going to Turner Field. It’s a great stadium, and if you’re here in season, that’s something that’s pretty special.

    3. Go to Westside Provisions. I think that’s a good little day trip, especially with my wife, who has an obsession with Anthropologie, which is right across the street. I mean, you’ve got Taqueria del Sol, you’ve got Star Provisions and Bacchanalia, you have all those little boutiques and you’ve got Billy Reid, the men’s clothing shop over there now.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What would Richard Blais serve at his ultimate dinner party?

    It really depends. It’s a tough question. It depends what the weather’s like, how I’m feeling. But a Sunday-night spaghetti dinner is something that’s fluid and simple and the thing that I like to cook for eight or 10 people. I also love the idea of a roasted bird or a big chunk of meat that’s just roasted with some local veg and a sauce or two. Nothing elaborate. No more Richard Blais 10-course tasting menu anymore; that’s not something that even as a diner I’m interested in.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What’s in Richard Blais’ refrigerator at home?

    Generally, you’re always going to find a number of condiments in my fridge. One of the chapters of my cookbook Try This At Home really deals with condiments and how they can make your food special. So I’m looking at kecap manis, which is an Indonesian soy sauce; a couple different international variations of hot sauce; and something called umami paste. Of course, there’s some basic tomato sauce and clarified butter. I’m actually pretty proud — this is an actual picture in the cookbook. What we talk about a lot in the book is yeah, you want to go get great ingredients, produce and proteins, but it’s the condiment — whether it’s ketchup for the burger or anchovies for a pasta dish — that can really set your food apart.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What keeps Richard Blais passionate about cooking?

    I think it’s just part of everyday life. I really don’t feel like I have a job. It’s easy because you have to eat every day. You have to cook every day, whether it’s finding different foods or executing the same food better. Cooking on TV is something that I’m passionate about now, which was something that five, six or seven years ago, I would have said, “I don’t want to be a TV chef.” But it’s a way to communicate with so many people and really change the way people eat or think about food. It’s the same with my cookbook. Try This At Home is my first cookbook, and it was a tremendous challenge. It was so much harder than I thought it would be, and it took so much longer. I’m really excited about the next cookbook because now I know how it’s done. And I think that’s the same with restaurants — it just never gets old. That’s what keeps me passionate: Food is never going to get old, and that’s a pretty exciting thing.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What are Richard Blais’ favorite cities for street food?

    I’m not an expert in food trucks, but I’ve had some incredible street food in Austin. I just came back from Seattle, where I was just walking down the street and saw a taco truck. I don’t even remember the name of it, but it was outstanding. I think you’re seeing more street food in New York now. I would say Austin was the best. I felt the last couple times I’ve been in Austin, it was a food truck city. It’s a part of its DNA.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What does Richard Blais think about the evolution of fine dining?

    After working at El Bulli and working at The French Laundry and Daniel, and then coming to Atlanta and starting to run smaller restaurants, I’ve seen it change a lot. I hesitate to say that there isn’t really much of that luxurious fine dining left in Atlanta at all. Bacchanalia maybe, and I think even Bacchanalia has loosened up a little bit. Those restaurants survive in New York City, but the population’s bigger and it’s an international city, but now it’s about young talent. You don’t need pictures on the wall, you just need to cook good food. There are restaurants now that exist without walls. There are pop-up restaurants. Everything has changed. I like it because it fits my personality. I’m a jeans-and-a-T-shirt kind of guy. You can still get the same quality of food, you’re just not getting the luxury. I’d be interested to see if there will be a return to this opulent sort of luxury dining. I think that there might be a brief resurgence soon, based on the economy. But I don’t think it will ever be what it was.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What does Richard Blais think makes a restaurant successful?

    I think putting yourself in the guest’s shoes. When I was a younger chef, it was really all about me. I wanted to cook the food that I wanted cook because I thought that was interesting, it tasted good and if you didn’t like the way that I thought, that was your problem. But not everyone wants a 10-course tasting menu every night. There’s a desire and a need for a roasted chicken, and there’s also a beauty to being able to execute that.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    How does Richard Blais come up with his menus?

    The most important thing for me is that, like a football coach, I come up with the format for how we’re going to do things and generally what the philosophy is on food, and will lead with the main idea and then my team collaborates. With anything that’s creative, it’s so important that you have multiple people sharing ideas. And we make a commitment that it’s not just chefs; it’s servers, busboys, managers, dishwashers. It doesn’t matter. If you have a good idea, it doesn’t matter where it comes from. So we start with a think tank like that, and three or four people in the kitchen at The Spence or on the creative team at Flip or HD end up making those decisions. It’s collaborative.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    Who has inspired Richard Blais?

    Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, being the two big-boy chefs that I’ve worked for and taught me things that I probably didn’t even know where they came from. Not just recipes and how to cook, but Daniel is an amazing manager and personality. Chef Keller is just so organized. He’s taught me how to arrange my life. Those are two chefs that I’ve worked for who have definitely influenced me.

    I think both my grandmothers sort of gave me a good balance. I had one French grandmother who was basically Julia Child. She would do everything from scratch — chicken stock, Jell-O, but make it fresh, not out of a packet. When I was a kid, I couldn’t stand it. It really freaked me out because it wasn’t clear. Once I learned how to cook, [I realized] she was a chef. And then my Irish-English grandmother would just boil potatoes, crush them with a fork and put butter and salt on them — she was sort of the other end of the spectrum, just absolute simplicity, and just simple flavors done well. Both of them, without me knowing, certainly influenced my cooking and the way I present food and think about food for sure.