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Richard Blais back for redemption on ‘Top Chef: All Stars’

richard-blais-top-chef

In 2008, Decatur resident Richard Blais was blazing his way to “Top Chef” victory – until the final meal.

For the first time, he seemed frazzled. His pork belly dish disappointed the judges. He lost. “I think I choked,” he said on the show.

In a recent phone interview, more than two years later, he admitted, “I had a little bit of writer’s block. I tried to do a little bit too much and tell too much of a story.”

Now, it’s time for redemption. On Wednesday, Blais joins 17 other past non-winning contestants in the Bravo series’ first “all star” competition. The stakes are higher – $200,000 instead of $125,000. And this hungry crowd features many of the show’s most talented and colorful characters, from arrogant Marcel Vigneron (season two) to intensely combative Dale Talde (season four) to chipper, ever quotable Carla Hall (season five).

“I really loved the competitive vibe of the show,” said Blais, “the inspiration that comes from  it. I really loved playing the game.”

Much of the show has already been pre-taped though a winner has not been named. Blais said coming in a second time, he carved out a simple philosophy: “My game plan is just to cook really great food and not get too wrapped up in any specific strategy or get wrapped up in the drama. I worry more about competing against myself.”

Blais came across in 2008 as a nice guy and certainly not the type to needlessly critique others. Other chefs respected his technical skills, use of unusual ingredient combinations and odd love affair with liquid nitrogen.

He said one of his most memorable moments from season four people bring up is his beef fat-infused tofu:

Tom Colicchio, the chief judge on the show, said Blais should have won season four. He has one caveat about Blais for this round: “He’s been doing the burger thing the past couple of years. He’s been out of the fine dining scene. That could be a bit of a handicap.”

Blais opened a high-end hamburger joint Flip Burger Boutique on Howell Mill Road two years ago and recently added a second locale in Buckhead and a third in Birmingham.

“It’s been very successful, knock on wood,” he said, of the original Flip. “I’m grateful people are still showing up.”

He is now considering a gourmet hot-dog boutique spot in the Poncey-Highland neighborhood set to open in the spring not far from Pura Vida, a tapas restaurant run by Hector Santiago, another “Top Chef” alumnus. “It’s good to have him as a neighbor,” he said.

Blais said the “Top Chef” experience grounded him and “reinforced what I am as a chef. It got me cooking more at home and focusing more on food. I have been baking lots of bread at home. I’m known as this crazy creative guy. But at the end of the day, it’s baking a great loaf of bread or roasting a piece of meat. Back to basics. It’s easy to get away from that.”

Since the original show, he and his wife Jazmin have had a daughter Riley with a second girl on the way, due in February. He’s also lost 20 to 30 pounds since his first “Top Chef” experience, running three or four miles every other day. “You see yourself on TV for a couple of months,” he said, “and I thought, ‘Maybe I need to get on a treadmill!’ ”

His season is the only one which included four contestants, a “little bit of a shock,” he said. “I’ve been pretty friendly with everyone from my season.”

Here’s his take on a few of his “all star” brethren:

- Stephen Asprinio, season one: “He’s a fascinating guy. Very smart. Someone I enjoyed spending non cooking time with.”

- Marcel Vigneron, season two: “Very passionate. Misunderstood sometimes. Dedicated to his craft. I’m a big Marcel fan.”

- Casey Thompson, season three: “Down to earth. Tremendous work ethic, even in the gym!”

- Spike Mendelsohn from Blais’ season: “The guy has figured out a way to make things happen for himself. I admire him a lot.”

- Dale Talde from Blais’ season: “So intense. I think he came in with the most to prove. Great cook, moves with speed.”

- Carla Hall, season five: “What isn’t there to love about her. I’d help her with anything. I think she would do the same for me. A good friend.”

- Fabio Viviani, season five: “I fell in love with this guy and his cooking. An amazing cook, who knew?”

- Jennifer Carroll, season six: “The type of cook that I wish I was… Enough said.”

- Angelo Sosa, season seven: “Another guy who’s misunderstood. Moves at such an amazing pace. Really got me physically motivated to play!”

Here’s one of the Bravo previews featuring Blais:

On TV

“Top Chef: All Stars,” 10 p.m. Wednesdays, Bravo

22 comments Add your comment

Janet

November 30th, 2010
8:35 am

I’m rooting for Richard, Carla and Dale. (My heart also belongs to Kevin Gillespie.)

RK

November 30th, 2010
9:49 am

YES! I knew he would create a Hot Doug’s for Atlanta. Awesome news.

Deanna

November 30th, 2010
11:38 am

I’m rooting for Richard and Carla; but Fabio still makes my heart flutter!

cathy gillespie

November 30th, 2010
12:00 pm

According to my son (Chef Kevin Gillespie)there will be many wonderful and talented people on “All Stars”. I wish in some ways he had decided to participate himself, but as has been announced, he is working on a cookbook. I love Jen and will root for her myself as she is a great lady and a very talented Chef!

Voice of Reason

November 30th, 2010
12:56 pm

@ Mom Gillespie… newsflash…..your son wasn’t invited to participate.

cathy gillespie

November 30th, 2010
1:19 pm

@Voice of Reason, How do you know? Where you part of the conversation between him and Bravo? You must not be a “Chef Kevin” fan? Too bad, he never says a bad word about anyone. I on the other hand will say what I want, which is “I am sorry my son CHOSE not to participate, however he is the navigator of his own life and I trust his choices. I will also be rooting for Mike I., Richard Blais, and Karla. I know it will be an exciting show. Have a nice day Voice of Reason-I am!

LB from HCo

November 30th, 2010
2:04 pm

Actually @Voice of Reason, Kevin WAS invited to participate in the show, but he turned it down due to previous and ongoing commitments, not to mention that he went through a very tough personal time while filming the show. (All this is on his facebook page…)I commend Kevin on being true to himself first and foremost and not seeking unneeded stress to achieve additional fame. and having gone to high school with Kevin, I can agree with @cathy gillespie, that he would never say a bad word about anyone!

Forrest

November 30th, 2010
2:19 pm

I heard Kevin was invited but declined :-( First off, Kevin kicks some serious A$$! I want to wish him the best on his new cookbook and with the restaurant, I hope he gets his BBQ idea up and running also! As for the All Starts, I’m going to be rooting for Fabio, AKA former personal chef for non other then William Shatner ;-0

Juan

November 30th, 2010
9:49 pm

Everyone is lucky Bryan Voltaggio is competing in All Stars. He would have easily beaten everyone

Janet

November 30th, 2010
10:03 pm

Cathy, please give your son our best — can’t wait to buy his cookbook!

Brogens Hero

November 30th, 2010
10:15 pm

@Voice of Reason what a loser you must be that you called out Kevin Gillespies mom. I’m sure that there is a blog out there for chumps like you please go find it.

Let's Go Hawks !!!

December 1st, 2010
2:36 am

Was able to check out ENO on a whim while it still was ENO – when Eli was not in the kitchen, he was entertaining patrons – very down to earth – not pretentious at all – I had the roast snapper entree and pheasant appetizer – both dishes were amazing – we know that Eli left for greener pastures but i’m wondering… how did Zaza manage to mess that up ?

Michael

December 1st, 2010
10:19 am

Ass kicking chefs. China will so kick our ass in the next war.

cathy gillespie

December 1st, 2010
10:24 am

@Janet, Thank you very much for the support for my son. I am so glad he has so many loyal fans-In spite of his not pursuing “All Stars”. As I said earlier, and as so clearly backed by LB from HCo, he had other committments which he is activly pursuing. He wants to be the person who RUNS his life, so he chooses his own direction. I respect and agree he is the best one to chose the path he takes. Thanks for all the support and watch for the cookbook-he is working on it now!
to Brogens Hero-Thanks for having our back! I truly appreciate it. Mama Gillespie (Cathy)

Pat

December 1st, 2010
11:49 am

I like Richard and I am a Carla fan. Hooty Hooooooo!

Gay Blade

December 1st, 2010
11:49 am

Is this blog still reserved for gay men that live in their parents’ basement?

Cheif Richard Fan

December 1st, 2010
3:37 pm

Kevin declined because he knew he didn’t want to get BLAISED! He would have gone down in a Blais of Glory. Richard Blais will destroy the compitishen. He is the best Cheif period! End of Story. When he gets done everyone else will be Blaised and Confused and he will be the champion he should have been years ago. Also Padma is hot. Not the girl in Star Wars but the padma in the show. I wonder if they will ever pick a chef from her homeland in Mexico? She is worthee of Richard. When they get marry he can just wear a Blaiser and not a tuxito.

Ashley

December 1st, 2010
3:49 pm

I really love all the food that Richard Blais cooks. I go to FLIP all the time and get the gourmet burgers. I try to go once a week. I love the fries, and you can’t leave with out a milkshake or two! Go Richard. I’m rooting for you.

Jose

December 2nd, 2010
8:58 am

Richard rocks! I like Carla too.

Wendy

December 2nd, 2010
2:10 pm

Cathy, your son was always my favorite chef of my favorite show. I’m even a fan of “Kevin Gillespie’s Beard” on Facebook. I was profoundly sad that he chose not to compete this season but am glad to hear that it is because he is pursuing other opprtunities. Best of luck to him and your whole family!

Wendy

December 2nd, 2010
2:13 pm

Oh, and I’m now rooting for Richard Blais. That would be incredible if he won. To be the only chef to be a Top Chef among the best AND a runner up in the original season would be the best Top Chef achievement so far.

jennifer p.

December 3rd, 2010
12:13 am

go richard go….