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Richard Blais (’Top Chef All Stars’ winner) promotes Campbell’s AdDress Your Heart, ready to open Spence

Richard Blais earlier this month at his restaurant HD1 in Poncey-Highland. CREDIT: Bob Andres

Richard Blais earlier this month at his restaurant HD1 in Poncey-Highland. CREDIT: Bob Andres

Atlanta’s Richard Blais won “Top Chef All Stars” last year with a mix of dogged determination and consummate skill. He also happens to have a TV-friendly persona and warm disposition to boot.

He seems to be a decent businessman as well, creating three successful Flip Burger Boutiques and a new hot-dog specialty spot in Poncey-Highland called HD1. And he’s getting ready to open his first high-end eatery since his first “Top Chef” stint in 2008: Spence, in April. He is also taping a food special for the Cooking Channel.

Healthy changes: Blais has lost 50 to 60 pounds over the past five years since he met his wife Jazmin, a personal trainer. He became an avid runner and ran his first marathon last fall, raising $28,000 for the Alliance for a Healthier Generation.  He peaked at 220 pounds and is now around 170.

Take that, Gordon Ramsay! Though he cooks primarily at home, he said Jazmin too is a great cook. In fact, he thinks his two young daughters prefer her cooking. If you think Tom Colicchio is a tough customer, take his three-year-old Riley.

He recently poached asparagus with Hollandaise sauce and bread crumbs. “It was pretty,” he said, “a three-star dish.” She tasted it. She threw it on the floor in disgust. “It was a big moment,” he said. “It taught me that at the end of the day, kids care about flavor. Three year olds don’t care about gastronomy. I threw the asparagus in the oven, roasted it. She liked it. She taught me that maybe it wasn’t all that good in the first place.”

Chef Richard Blais, winner of Bravo's "Top Chef All-Stars" and renowned restaurateur and television personality, is seen on the red carpet at the Campbell's sponsored Women's Day Red Dress Awards on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 in New York City. CREDIT: AP

Chef Richard Blais, winner of Bravo's "Top Chef All-Stars" and renowned restaurateur and television personality, is seen on the red carpet at the Campbell's sponsored Women's Day Red Dress Awards on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 in New York City. CREDIT: AP

Hot diggety: His HD1 restaurant so far isn’t doing quite as well as Flip Burger. The hot dog, he acknowledges, never gets the respect of the burger.  “It’s really a little more of a passion project,”  he said. “High-end burgers have gone mainstream. There aren’t too many fast casual hot dog restaurants.”

Haute dog: “I get a lot of heat for doing hamburgers and hot dogs. But I bring in farm products. I use local companies. I don’t get to splash liquid nitrogen around. But the ingredients we buy are not frozen. That’s important for me to mention.”

Push this: Blais’ daily goal is to do 100 push ups and he’ll do it in odd places, including the Delta Sky Club. “I’m kind of obsessive,” he said.

Paula Deen’s disclosure of her diabetes and ties with a drug company that creates drugs for diabetes: “I can’t take a side. I don’t know the information. That is her thing and her  life. But the conversation is healthy, even in the negative.”

Future book in the works: “It’s a cookbook for the home cook so they can cook creatively. We don’t have a title. It should be ready by spring of 2012.”

His philosophy for the new Midtown restaurant Spence: “I want to deliver food people want to eat every day over the presentation or wow factor just for the sake of it. I want it to be great tasting food and want it to be artistic. I want to cook affordable food.”

What he’s promoting now: He is spending the month working on a healthy heart campaign with Campbell’s soup. Campbell’s created a competition online in which you can vote for a recipe created by Blais or one by Campbell’s Soup Master Chef Thomas Griffiths. Blais created a spicy bouillabaisse which he calls Spicy BouillaBlais using low-sodium spicy hot V8 while Griffiths made Spiced Chicken with Balsamic-Blueberry Green Bean Salad.

Here’s a quick interview I did with him:

And here’s his Campbell’s challenge:

Join my Facebook fan page and Twitter.

By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk

10 comments Add your comment

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jennifer

February 20th, 2012
4:47 pm

The Spence is Blais’s first high end restaurant? How about Home, Element, Bazaar, Blais…

James Phoenix

February 20th, 2012
9:38 pm

HD1= too expensive for what one gets for the money. I liked the pickles, but left hungry. There wasn’t enough bang for the buck in my opinion. The Varsity makes more money than any other restaurant in town for a reason. They also give one his or her money’s worth.

Chuckles™

February 20th, 2012
10:11 pm

It’s good to see that Richard’s doing well.

HD1 has several issues:
1) Location – It’s a bar that serves bar food upped to a degree.
2) Limited options on the menu for apps and sauce/dog options. Give folks more options for add ons.
3) The chili dog is good – but it’s not great. The chili dog is the cornerstone of MOST dog places. Blais comes from NY, so you would THINK the chili dog would be the classic coney or greek sauce version. They went with brisket. That would have made a nice barbecue dog, or a deli dog. But seriously: do a Blais-ed version of a Capital Lunch or NY System sauce. They would need to add a volume pricing scheme if they ever duplicated the ‘I MUST HAVE MORE’ wonderfulness of a proper Greek sauce with a pork dog with natural casing, so it snaps.
4) You expect HD1 to be the Hot Dog version of Flip. More options (think Hot Doug’s in Chicago).

My opinions only. But I bet some of you know what I’m talking about…

KAlex

February 20th, 2012
11:35 pm

AGREED Jennifer! Although FLIP is Good, I don’t understand a Hot Dog joint. I have a feeling that will be “Done” in a year. Excited to see what he will do with Spence, and I’m Happy he is Healthy with his weight.

george

February 20th, 2012
11:40 pm

i enjoy watching him on tv, but i really wonder if his definition of affordable has any relationship to what someone like me with children in college and aging parents to assist would consider affordable enough to patronize often. i keep expecting him to go really high end special event or lavish expense account (150-200) for apps, entrees, simple deserts with alcohol on top type location.

homerwlenk

February 21st, 2012
6:40 am

Very true that major brands do give out samples on their products, search online for “Get Official Samples” we just got ours today. You wont need CC.

carla roqs

February 21st, 2012
8:17 am

Fred

February 21st, 2012
5:35 pm

So what Is his new “concept” place gonna be. How to yuppify and ruin a peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Or maybe to do the same for a grilled freaking cheese. i just can’t wait. I can have a 45 dollar PBJ with Ukrainian yak dung spots instead of jelly of some such crap and everyone willflock to it…….. then we’ll all break our stuff………… sheep.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MEKxpuKUl1c&feature=related

mk

February 22nd, 2012
11:26 am

First high end since top chef in 2008, says it in the article.

I actually like HD1 a lot, but usually split three with a friend (so 1 1/2 dogs each). I think there is a lot to be said for artisanal sausages/dogs (i.e. The Spotted Trotter), but it seems as if the concept at HD1 is more emphasis on the toppings than the dogs themselves.