Richard Blais' redemption: Chat with Top Chef All-Stars winner

Mar 31, 2011

Richard Blais cooked his way to victory in the season eight finale of Top Chef All-Stars. Fresh off his win, Richard is here to live chat and tell you anything you've been dying to know throughout the season.

At 11:30 a.m. Food editor Joe Yonan and deputy editor Bonnie Benwick dissect this week's episode of Bravo's 'Top Chef All-Stars'. What did you think of the episode? Do you agree with who was sent home?

Fun finale! So, of the two desserts what did you think? Was it the dessert that decided the win?

I don't think it came down to the dessert after reading Tom's blog.  I think it came down to the overall impression of the entire meal.

Richard: If you had to do it over again, would you share your recipe book with Mike?

Absolutely.  I think it got a little bit hyped up for what it was.  I think being a chef is about learning and teaching and sharing information.  I definitely didn't have a problem sharing my notebook with anyone.

What do you make for your kids?

We eat pretty simple.  Fresh pasta is probably a dish I like making with my three year old.  Nothing like making edible playdough.  I'd be dishonest if I said that I don't make at least one peanut butter and jelly or cream cheese and jelly sandwich a day.  That's my kind of go-to lunch for school.

Is there anybody in Top Chef history that you would of liked to see in All Stars?

I mean, in all honesty, going into it we didn't know who was going to be competing.  I was a little frustrated that there weren't any previous winners in the cast.  If you won a season then you're already an all-star.   It would have been good to see some winners participate.

Richard, Which chefs inspire you in your work?

Many chefs inspire me.  The time I spent with Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud.  Those are definitely two chefs I look up to greatly and that have inspired my cooking.

Two chefs that I'm a big fan of are David Chang and Wylie Dufresne.

As an Atlanta resident, I'm super curious about what you've got in the works for your $200,000 prize money. When can we expect Richard Blais to open his dream restaurant?

I'm still working on trying to put a few pieces together for that.  $200,000 is a lot of money, but it's not enough to open a restaurant.  It's definitely something that's going to happen, but it's something that I'm working on.

My daughter is a 1st year culinary student, what advice would you have for someone just starting out in her culinary adventure? P.S. Congrats to you!

Thank you on the congrats!  Really, for a culinary student it's to just get as much live restaurant work as possible.  School is great and I loved my time at culinary, but the live kitchen is where you get real experience.

Tell her to take her down time if she can and go on her own time and learn at different restaurants.  Peel a lot of potatoes and peel a lot of vegatables and do what she can.  Most restaurants will let you come into their kitchens for a day and help out.  Get used to the grind and physicalness of working in a restaurant. 

What was your wife's response to your call saying you won?

I think it was just OMG.  I don't know if she expected me to win so she was just kind of shocked.  I called her pretty early in the morning and she was just very excited and just, you know, shocked.

You mentioned to Mike Isabella that if you win, you'll give Mike some money for his new restaurant Graffiato. That was very generous of you. Are you now an investor? Perhaps this might encourage you to open something of your own in DC?

Flip Burger is coming to DC.  We had a little bit of a stall with a real estate deal, but it is coming now in an undisclosed location.  I apologize to everyone in DC for not having that up yet. 

I do have his business plan on my laptop.  That's still on the table.  I definitely invest in Mike in spirit and there  We've kinda kicked around the idea of doing a modern Italian "Primadonna" which I think would be pretty neat.

Congrats on your win! At the beginning of the season, who would you have expected to be in the finale with you?

I think I definitely I have a ton of respect Jenn Carroll and Angelo Sosa.  It's hard to go back and think about what you felt before you started cooking.  I thought that they'd definitely advance really far in the competition.

Once the competition starts you realize that there are a lot of people competing well.  There are a bunch of people that could have gotten to the end.

You seemed much more negative and self-doubting in the extended Bahamas finale. Was it the pressure of being back in the finals?

I just think what everyone saw was what chefs go through when they're awaiting a big review.  A chef being very focused and intense.  A restaurant chef might have a review once a year.   On Top Chef it looks like we're getting reviews every week but really we're getting them every day.  Some of it certainly was the pressure of wanting to succeed and do well.

How did you select what porcelain or other pieces you used to present your dishes?

On Top Chef it's really just about looking around the kitchen and figuring out what's going to work best for the dish.  Most of it comes down to how it's going to feel to eat a dish on that designed plate.  To me it's much more about the function.  Most chefs like to use a base or off white plate to show the color of the food. 

For the restuarants a lot of online shopping, for sure.

Richard, Congrats on the win. I know that you're a good chef, and could have probably won your original season. However, why did you have to go ON, and ON, and ON about how you should have won your season etc.? You acted as if Stephanie would never have been able to win if you didn't "choke," and it became obnoxious to the point of being insulting to her. It's very unbecoming.

That's someone's opinion and I've certainly never said that she didn't desrve to win.  She certainly did.  Sometimes you have to read between the lines about what people are saying.  I think expressing disappointment about your performance is ok and that's all it is.  I've never ever said that she didn't deserve to win.

I want to know when his cookbook will come out? And will there be more episodes of Blais Off?

The cookbook is in the really early stages.  That'll take at least a year, unfortunately, and we're in the process of finding a publisher.

Blais Off was only a 2 episode instance.  Currently, we're in the stages of pitching Blais Off to some networks.

Congratulations, Chef. This was one of my favorite seasons, and I've been a fan since season one. The competition seemed much fiercer than a usual season. How did it feel going up against so many of Top Chef's best?

I'm a big fan of the season too, and I think you got it exactly right.  It was 18 extremely talented chefs and if you played it out 18 times then you'd have 18 different winners.  It was definitely tougher than the first go around.  I think it's fair to say that it was the toughest seaon in Top Chef history.

Hey, Richard. Carol Blymire from the Alinea at Home blog here. Just wanted to say that of all the food on the show this season, I found yours and Antonia's dishes the most inspiring to home cooks like me. That sweet potato pasta was genius, dude. GENIUS. Thanks for doing what you do.

I'm a huge fan of yours and love your blog and everything you do.  I have enjoyed some of your recaps this season.  It's a huge compliment being compared to Antonia's food because it's so fluid.  I'm a huge fan, so it's a compliment to be in that category with her.

Congratulations, Richard. I nearly passed out before they announced you had won. I was hoping it was you even though Mike really did come on strong the last few weeks. Best of luck to you and your family. Is there a new baby yet?

I almost passed out too! And yes, Embry Lotus Blais is seven weeks and she just made her first airplane flight two days ago.

Are there any plans for a competition of all the Top Chef winners? And if so, would you participate? Congratulations!

Not that I'm aware of, but I've been saying all along that I'd love a Top Chef Champions League for winner with, I don't know, a million bucks? And yes, I'd partcipate tomorrow if they asked.

If you could staff your restaurant with Top Chef competitors from any season, who would they be?

There would be a long list, but I'd say that the three I had working with me in the finale last night.  Angelo and Antonia and Spike - their drive to work with me in the finale - they are equally as deserving of the win last night. 

Richard, congratulations! I was so thrilled for your well-deserved win. At what point in your life did you realize that you wanted to become a chef? Did your family have a background, like Wolfgang Puck? Or did you just discover it on your own?

I just kind of discovered it on my own. I was doing what most people do - going to college but not really studying  anything I wanted to do.  As I kept going I started cooking at places to earn my college tuition and pay for school.

My roots are pretty humble.  McDonald's was my first job.  Many restaurants after that I sort of realized the camraderie of the kitchen and instant gratification of cooking something for someone and making someone happy.

But I'll always remember that McDonalds.  To me that's a really big part of my story and that's important for me to express. 

Thanks for all the questions, and for the support!  It was great chatting with you guys today.  I have a pretty busy schedule so I need to get out of here.  Have a great day!

In This Chat
Richard Blais
They’re back and they’re ready for redemption –- Bravo's Top Chef congregates a dream team of 18 past cheftestants who nearly won the title to return to see if they have what it takes. The 2010 Primetime Emmy Award-winning Top Chef returns to New York City for Season 8 with host Padma Lakshmi and head judge chef Tom Colicchio, alongside judges Gail Simmons and new this season, best-selling author and chef, Anthony Bourdain.
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