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 is Richard Blais’ favorite cookbook?

    The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating or Beyond Nose to Tail by Fergus Henderson, so his series of cookbooks. Fergus is obviously a nose-to-tail, whole-animal chef out of London, and he’s been a huge inspiration to me. I think that people are a little alarmed sometimes that my favorite cookbooks aren’t super scientific. But it’s his respect for the whole animal and local vegetables, and just the simplicity of good British cooking. I think Nose to Tail Eating is probably my favorite cookbook, even sort of the way that the photography is done in that book; they’re very sort of dry and still life. That was definitely an inspiration to some of the photography that’s in my book.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What are Richard Blais’ favorite ingredients?

    As far as things I can’t live without, certainly vinegar or fresh citrus fruits. Acid is really what sets food apart. A lot of chefs think it’s salt, fat or butter. But it’s really acidity. Vinegar is a big part of my cuisine. You can make vinegar from anything. I just stumbled upon this passion fruit vinegar that is amazing. Generally speaking, at home I use a good sherry vinegar or cider vinegar.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    Aside from a chef’s knife, what is Richard Blais’ most important kitchen tool?

    I almost feel bad saying it because it’s so cliché, but a spoon. I always travel with a spoon. It’s not just any spoon. Chefs, we sort of collect these spoons. Which is a nice way of saying that we poach them and pinch them from different places. It’s like a lightsaber or sword to a chef. You’d think it’d be a knife, but it’s really these vintage spoons. Even at The Spence, all of the spoons and tableware are different designs that we just randomly collected from antique and thrift shops.

    But then the more interesting answer is tweezers, those surgeon tweezers. Probably the instrument du jour are the modern tweezers. I actually couldn’t stand chefs who were plucking tweezers out of their pockets and gently placing little micro greens on dishes with them. But then I started using them, and for a guy who has chubby fingers like myself, tweezers tend to be a really refined instrument to put things on a plate or grab a scallop out of a pan. You find that they’re a good extension of your fingers.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    How did Richard Blais become a chef?

    Like a lot of boys, I wanted to be an athlete, and I played different sports from five years old all the way up through high school and college. My first job was at McDonald’s. I’m always really proud to talk about that, and I mention it in the book. My first position at McDonald’s was poissonier, which means fish cook. The first batch of filet-o-fish I sent out, I forgot to put the top buns on them. So I was being avant-garde and creative way before I knew that was my calling. But I was just sort of floating through life and going through college studying whatever. I don’t even remember. But I was always cooking without knowing that was going to be a career. As I started climbing up from the McDonald’s to the local restaurant, a little Italian place, a little French place, I started running into people who actually went to school to cook. People who weren’t just grinding out a workday, they were actually learning a craft. I fell into it like that. I was having a lot more fun learning how to cook instead of studying world religion and comparative humanities. I sort of became obsessed with it, and that’s how it started.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What does Richard Blais wear when traveling?

    I layer a lot. I’m usually really casual and wear a baseball cap. I might hit the bathroom in the middle of the night and change a T-shirt to refresh. But for the most part, I have on a button-up shirt with sweater or sweatshirt so I can look casual or presentable.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    Who is Richard Blais’ favorite traveling companion?

    Definitely family. We have a 4-year-old and 2-year-old. I like the idea of kids getting a chance to travel, even though I don’t know how much they’ll remember. I think we’re blessed to give them that chance.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What is Richard Blais’ favorite airline?

    I’m Delta all the way. I’m addicted to how many miles I can get.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What are Richard Blais’ favorite shops to visit when traveling?

    I’m always on the hunt for a good spoon. So if I walk past a good vintage antiques store, I’m going to check that out. Also a store that does artisan cheeses and preserves. And I’m in to sneakers, so I’ll check out any boutique sneaker shop.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What are Richard Blais’ favorite things to bring home from his travels?

    I always look for a little jar of jams, preserves or chili peppers. I’m always bringing home some little jar of something.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What does Richard Blais love most in a hotel?

    I love hotels. There’s just something about the idea of room service. It’s an amazing thing that you can just pick up the phone, and somebody will bring a tray of food to your room. If it’s good, that’s amazing. I love to get to a hotel, throw on my sneakers, run a few miles, order some room service and hit the spa. The relaxation of a good hotel is just something special.
  • On April 3, 2013
    Richard Blais answered the question: Richard Blais

    What does Richard Blais always travel with?

    If I’m competing on a show, I travel with ghee. My new thing this year, philosophically, is the fluidity of cooking. How do you just open up your fridge and just cook? As a younger, newer parent, whether it’s a quick-fire challenge on TV for Top Chef or you’re just getting off of work at home and have to throw a dinner together in 30 to 45 minutes, we all have this challenge of “I’ve gotta throw something together.” So I’ll bring in pantry items like clarified butter or a particular so-called molecular pantry ingredient like xantham gum or lecithin. These are all things that are found in the vitamin section of a market.