Richard Blais is undoubtedly one of Atlanta’s best and most recognizable chefs.
His recent resume includes: winning Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars; owning/operating Trail Blais culinary company, with Atlanta restaurants, Flip Burger Boutique, HD1, and The Spence; becoming a seemingly ubiquitous television presence; and authoring his first cookbook, “Try This At Home.”
Blais is currently on the inaugural Top Chef Cruise, sailing the high seas with the likes of Fabio, Spike, and what is very likely way too many Top Chef fans.
On Sunday evening, you can see him competing again on the Food Network’s Chopped: All-Stars. And on April 22, he’ll be at Flip in Buckhead for a book tour event billed as “An Evening with Richard Blais.”
I caught up with Blais earlier this week before he embarked on the cruise, which he admitted, he was a little worried about.
“I’ve never been on a cruise before,” he said. “It’s not something I ever really thought I would do.”
Here’s some more of what Blais had to say.
Q. How’s the book tour going?
A. It’s been great. The response has been awesome, and the book is doing well. It’s a new world to me as a first time author, so I’m trying to take it in stride. But I’m learning a lot about who my fans and supporters are, and little bit more about some regional differences. As a chef, that’s great, for sure.
Q. Any tour highlights?
A. Honestly, I’ve done multiple stops here in Atlanta, and I’ve been surprised by how many people are showing up. I always think Atlanta is my toughest market, because people are used to me and they’ve known me for a while. And then, just generally, how many people show up for a signing. I’m not cooking on tour or anything. People are showing up to chat, and it’s new time in my career.
Q. So has everyone been well-behaved?
A. Everyone has been really nice. Of course, I’ve had a few super fan moments, maybe too much of a fan kind of thing. That’s why I’m cautious about this cruise, because we’re obviously going be trapped with a bunch of super fans.
Q. Well changing the subject from one worry to another, it’s been rumored that HD1 may become another Flip. How much do you have to do with that?
A. I have a lot more to do with it than I think people understand. I think there’s a little bit of confusion locally about what my role is. I do own a percentage of all of them, and I am the culinary, creative director, so to speak. Whatever people want to say, whether I’m consulting or directing, I do own a part of it. I am involved in the big decisions, and we’ll see what happens.
Q. So only a rumor at this point?
A. There is no official word. There have been a lot of rumors floating around, whether it’s been about HD and Flip, or where I’m personally living. Those are the rumors I’ve seen, lately, and they’re just that. There’s a little truth to all of them, but nothing concrete.
Q. You seem to attract super fans and you seem to attract online trolls.
A. At this point in my career, I’m pretty thick-skinned. But I’m going to get a lot more negative attention on blogs in the Atlanta area than would ever anywhere else.
Q. So do you want to put any of the rumors to rest for the fans or the trolls?
A. I’ll put one to rest, for sure. There’s never been an intention to leave Atlanta, specifically on a professional basis. I’m an owner of these restaurants and a partner in these restaurants here, and regardless of how much TV I do, or how much traveling I do, or wherever I might end up doing another project, eventually, it doesn’t mean that I’m leaving Atlanta. There’s this misconception that I’ve been traded or I’m leaving one place for another.
Q. So I guess you’re saying that you’re a chef and not a baseball player?
A. Yeah [laughs]. I’m using a baseball analogy. But it’s more that I’m growing. And as I grow, it doesn’t mean that I’m going to grow away from Atlanta. I’m going to grow with Atlanta still being the foundation of what got me to where I am.
Q. So you’re going to do what many chefs in New York and LA and other places have done?
A. That’s exactly where we’re at. We will end up doing restaurants in other cities. And there might come a time when I actually do have dual residences. But I don’t plan on leaving Atlanta as the foundation and the root.
An Evening with Richard Blais, 6-8 p.m. April 22. $50, includes three-course menu and a copy of “Try This At Home.” 3655 Roswell Road, Suite 300, 404-549-3298, www.flipburgerboutique.com.
— Bob Townsend, AJC Food and More blog.