Richard Blais is already known in the industry as being innovative and adventurous. He's got a penchant for molecular gastronomy, but he's got the résumé to go with it. He's worked along side Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Ferran Adria, plus he's helmed several restaurants including One Midtown Kitchen in Atlanta. And if he looks strangely familiar to you, it might be that he recently battled Mario Batali on Iron Chef America.
So, what should we expect from him? And why would someone with such a fantastic résumé even bother with Top Chef? To find out what he had to say,
YumSugar: What drew you to Top Chef, why'd you decide to audition?
Richard: It came about, well they found me. I got a phone call and went on the audition. I really wasn't thinking too much about it. I'd seen the show of course, but my initial reaction was, well I don't really know too much about the show. My ego got in the way for a split second, but then I talked to myself about what an immense personal challenge it is and decided to do it.
YS: How did Top Chef compare to Iron Chef?
R: It's a totally different competition. It's a different thing. Iron Chef is kinda restaurant versus restaurant, if that makes any sense. Whereas Top Chef is like a gladiator being stripped of his armor. You're kind of raw and by yourself . . . that sounds sad, I made that sound sad, but it's not. It's just much more of an individual competition.
YS: Was the Top Chef experience what you were expecting?
R: I was nervous going in. It was very tough, tougher than I thought it would be. I was not prepared for the social pressure. The cooking was okay, a stove is a stove, food is food, I've seen it before. But hey, go live in this house with 15 other people. . . . I pride myself on being socially awkward.
YS: Were you surprised to see another faux hawk? [Note: Cheftestant Jennifer also sports a similar hairdo.]
R: Yeah. We both have fair skin, light colored hair, and are really good cooks. It was definitely an odd thing for both of us. I wondered if I got in because I had a cool haircut, but then saw hers. To be quite honest I think mine's a little bit better than Jen's, but don't tell her that! I've seen the photos, it's a little bit poufed up in some of them. I'm wondering if there wasn't a little bit of PhotoShop going on.
YS: What were some of the ingredients you brought with you on Top Chef?
R: Raz el Hanout — a North African spice — some cool equipment — a little electric smoker, immersion circulator, portable cooker — coffee oil, lecithin, xanthan gum, crazy molecular gastronomy stuff that's not that crazy.
YS: You seem to like the more scientific/gastronomy techniques. Want to tell us more about that?
R: Scientific? [laughs] I failed chemistry twice. . . . Science is a part of food, art is a part of food, culture is a part of food. One of the great things about cooking is that I don't feel like I have a job. I just do what i do.
If you can find a way through science to make you food better, then you should do it. Whether it's technology or technique. My genre gets portrayed as cold and it's not. If you can use the microwave to make your meal better then you should do it it, but if you zap food with a laser gun just to zap food with a laser gun, then it doesn't make any sense.
Photos courtesy of Bravo