Richard Blais, since his victory on “Top Chef: All Stars” last year, has been a busy man.
He opened up a hot-dog restaurant HD1 in Poncey-Highland. He works culinary festivals. He’s planning a book. He helped Campbell’s Soup on a healthy heart campaign. He’s run a marathon. And he joined Bravo’s “Life After Top Chef” earlier this year as the show chronicled the opening of his new Midtown restaurant Spence.
He and three other “Top Chef” alums - Jenn Spence, Fabio Viviano and Spike Mendelsohn – will be tracked in an eight-episode series that is unlikely to draw more than “Top Chef” addicts. The first episode, which airs tonight at 10 p.m., is hardly scintillating. Three of them have restaurants – Fabio, Spike and Richard. Jenn is mopey because she got ripped off by some investors and is still without one and feeling pressure compared to the three guys. (The New York Times today wasn’t terribly kind to any of the contestants, calling Blais “dweeby,” Fabio “ruggedly beautiful and vacant,” Spike “a fifth generation photocopy of Mr. Viviano” and Jenn possessing “sad, defeated eyes.”)
Blais is our hometown hero, but he’s humble. “It was an honor to be picked for this,” he says in a phone interview last month.
So far, since Spence opened a few months ago, “it’s been busy. I can’t complain We’re cooking for hundreds of people a day. And people are enjoying the food. We’ve accomplished what we wanted to do for a big city neighborhood restaurant.”
Since he has been focusing on burgers and hotdogs, he admits he hasn’t done high-end food in a restaurant in awhile but he said it’s like “riding a bike.”
He says, even without the show, he’d see the three of them on a regular basis, including the Aspen Food Festival featured in the first episode (which is up against the Presidential debates.)
Blais had a bromance on “Top Chef” with Fabio. “He’s a great balance for me,” he says. Blais is neurotic and intense. Fabio is lighthearted and loose. “I make fun of him with native New Yorker sarcasm,” Blais says. “He doesn’t always understand it. And he wears way too much cologne.”
He says he didn’t know Jenn very well going in but could relate to her having investor issues. As for Spike, “I don’t know his personal story but I’ve eaten at his places. Some people don’t like him but I find Spike totally inspiring. He’s blown up. He’s all over the place. He’s a guy I get along with.”
Blais says for him, he can’t complain. “I’m in an amazing place. Last week, I was at the White House and the State Department. There’s this TV show, a book coming out early next year and five restaurants. I have an awesome family. I can’t complain.”
“Life After Top Chef”
10 p.m., Wednesdays, Bravo
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk