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Restaurant Review - Richard Blais: Hometown hero

Dishing on 'Top Chef'

Bravo's "Top Chef" has been especially emotional for Atlantans this season, with hometown chef Richard Blais in the running. Last week's finale dashed our hopes of an Atlanta Top Chef, with Blais losing to sweet and sensible Stephanie. The morning after the finale aired, I caught up with Blais by phone, and asked him about the show, his career and some of his more controversial co-contestants.

I first want to congratulate you on becoming a dad. Are you getting any sleep?

Thank you! You know, chefs don't sleep anyway, so even if you take away another three hours, it's nothing a cup of coffee can't take care of.

Was it a hard decision for you to go on the show? I think that a lot of Atlantans felt like you should be a judge rather than a contestant.

Sure. I was at Element at the time when casting called me. And it was right at the time your review was in the paper; it might have been what they were reading and thinking, "Here's a picture of a guy shooting nitrogen all over the place. Maybe he'd be worth talking to." When they called me, my ego totally jumped out of my chef's jacket. I thought they must be coming to Atlanta for an episode. It sounds so cocky, but since you brought it up first ... I was like, "Yeah I'll judge an episode if they're in Atlanta." Then they were like, "No, we want you to be a contestant."

I thought about the bigger picture and I realized it would be an amazing challenge, and then I actually got really mad at myself for having an ego that would even think that I would be above this.

How was the experience overall?

I don't want to sound like the cliché, but I would absolutely do it over again. I think the toughest part for me not winning it all is the fact that, you know, if your team doesn't win the Super Bowl, what do you do as a fan, you say well ... ?

Next year ...

That's probably the hardest thing because there is no next year. Then you start realizing, that's not really what I do. I'm not a competitive TV cook. It's not my job.

Did you watch the show as it aired throughout the season?

The first episode it was like "Everyone come over ... we're gonna have a party!" Of course, when you know you don't do well you have no interest in watching it at all. When I had that problem with the scales on the fish, I wasn't rushing home that Wednesday. I got a good kick out of watching myself on television because I'm probably the weirdest-looking person that's ever been on TV. Why didn't anyone tell me about my haircut?

Hee hee ... Have you changed it?

I've changed it a little bit. It was really roostery during the Chicago part. Why wouldn't anyone who knows me at least say, "Why don't you get a haircut? Maybe go to the tanning bed before you go on there. Hey, keep running, you know, TV adds 20 pounds."

Everybody wonders how much of the personalities that emerge on the show are in the editing. I mean, I think you're a sweet guy, but you come across as a really sweet guy. Lisa came across as so evil, and Andrew came across as a total crackhead.

I don't think there's anything editing can do to totally change someone's personality. From the things you mentioned, I think you hit all of them right on the button. I have nothing against Lisa; her personality is pretty much what you see. She's a little bit more the-glass-is-half-empty type. That's a nice way to say it. Andrew is an absolute firecracker in a locker. You couldn't edit that down because that's how he is. I'm probably not as nice as I was on the show. I do yell in my kitchen. I think I'm a nice guy. I don't torture puppies or anything like that. But I definitely think that I got a good edit.

Do you regret saying at the judge's table that you choked?

I think a lot of people look at it and it's easy to say, "Oh my god, why did he just say that? He just ruined his chances." That's probably the most edited part of the show. Hours of dialogue get cut into a very small amount of time. No matter what I made, the type of chef that I am, I'm never really happy with anything I do. All you're doing at that point is letting the judges know that you're self-aware. What I'm saying is not that it didn't work out, what I'm saying is, "Look, this wasn't the best meal of my life."

How committed are you to staying in Atlanta?

I have no intentions on leaving Atlanta. I have the intention of getting to a place, hopefully very soon, to be able to wake up and say, "I'm gonna go to work right now and I'm gonna cook the food that I want to cook." And I want people to enjoy it. I don't want to make food that people are like, "Ah, that's weird." I do want to fill a restaurant up. That's one of the things that being at Home is teaching me. I mean, some people are pissed off that I'm not in the dining room with goggles and a nitrogen jet pack, but the restaurant's full, and a lot of people are coming back and that means something, doesn't it?

It does.

I want to get to that point when I'm doing my own food. If that happens in Atlanta, then it happens in Atlanta. And I would love it to happen in Atlanta. I want it to happen in Atlanta.



More By This Writer

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===Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant=== Tue., March 13, 7 p.m. Bushmills Whiskey Tasting. Fadó and radio host Rich Sullivan of 92.9 davefm are hosting a whiskey tasting. $39.95 covers a tasting of five whiskeys and six dishes. Master of Whisky Kevin Mulcahy of Diageo will be on hand to lead guests through the tasting and explain each whiskey to attendees. 20 percent of the proceeds from the evening will be donated to St. Baldrick’s Foundation. ===Details===

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[http://clatl.com/atlanta/fado_irish_pub_restaurant/Location?oid=1301261|===__Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant__===] Tue., March 13, 7 p.m. __Bushmills Whiskey Tasting.__ Fadó and radio host Rich Sullivan of 92.9 davefm are hosting a whiskey tasting. $39.95 covers a tasting of five whiskeys and six dishes. Master of Whisky Kevin Mulcahy of Diageo will be on hand to lead guests through the tasting and explain each whiskey to attendees. 20 percent of the proceeds from the evening will be donated to St. Baldrick’s Foundation. [http://clatl.com/atlanta/bushmills-whiskey-tasting/Event?oid=4811108|===__Details__===]

[http://clatl.com/atlanta/double-zero-napoletana/Location?oid=3432475|===__Double Zero Napoletana__=== ]Tues., March 13, 5-10 p.m. __Supper Club at Double Zero Napoletana.__ Treat your taste buds to a trip to Southern Italy at Double Zero Napoletana on Tuesday, March 13, 2012 as it hosts the Atlanta Community Food Bank’s Supper Club dining event. The menu features pizza, fresh pasta and seafood, as well as Antipasti and Sfizi, handmade pastries, and gelato. ===__Details__===

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===Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant=== Tue., March 13, 7 p.m. Bushmills Whiskey Tasting. Fadó and radio host Rich Sullivan of 92.9 davefm are hosting a whiskey tasting. $39.95 covers a tasting of five whiskeys and six dishes. Master of Whisky Kevin Mulcahy of Diageo will be on hand to lead guests through the tasting and explain each whiskey to attendees. 20 percent of the proceeds from the evening will be donated to St. Baldrick’s Foundation. ===Details===

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Article

Monday March 12, 2012 02:31 pm EDT

  • James Camp
  • Double Zero Napoletana

Fado Irish Pub & Restaurant Tue., March 13, 7 p.m. Bushmills Whiskey Tasting. Fadó and radio host Rich Sullivan of 92.9 davefm are hosting a whiskey tasting. $39.95 covers a tasting of five whiskeys and six dishes. Master of Whisky Kevin Mulcahy of Diageo will be on hand to lead guests through the tasting and explain each whiskey to attendees. 20...

| more...
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*wikimedia commons
*He stank
What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the NCAA tournament committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but I've got beer to drink! See ya tomorrow for the championship game."
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What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the [NCAA tournament] committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but [http://clatl.com/omnivore/archives/2012/03/06/win-tickets-to-sweetwaters-brew-your-cask-off-and-try-xl-cls-40th-anniversary-ale|I've got beer to drink]! See ya tomorrow for the championship game."
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What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if Duke beats FSU in the second semifinal game today, that is - at half time it's looking far from guaranteed with FSU up 33-31). State had a lead as large as 7 points early in the second half, but Carolina came back to tie it up. It stayed that way right down to the buzzer, with UNC up by 2 with 1.2 seconds left. State just couldn't pull off that miracle. UNC won 69-67 

See? I can write like a sportswriter. 

But just because I can write like a sportswriter doesn't mean I want to. What I really want to say is, GODDAMN THAT WAS A CLOSE AND EXCITING FUCKING GAME. Also, Ramses the Ram is very, very stinky. He did a lot of his dancing right beside me, seeing as I'm at the end of press row right next to the UNC band, and by the end of the game that ram stank. 

Here's the thing: for a team with national championship hype, NC State shouldn't have given UNC that much trouble, even with one of their star players out. On the up side, State's performance proves definitively to me that they deserve a place in the NCAA tournament, which their defeat of Virginia on Friday is widely thought to have earned them. 

UNC Coach Roy Williams agrees that NC State ought to be in the tournament. At the post-game press conference he said "If I was on the NCAA tournament committee I'd fight very hard for NC State to be in the tournament. There's no doubt in my mind they're one of the best 68 teams in the country." He also refused to answer any questions before his players, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller, had been addressed. "We need to get them back in the shower," he said. "They smell bad up here."

I'd love to stick around and see the end of this Duke FSU game, but I've got beer to drink! See ya tomorrow for the championship game.             13066795 4986952                          ACC Tournament semifinals: UNC stinks (no really...they smell bad) "
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Saturday March 10, 2012 04:24 pm EST

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What most Tar Heel fans thought would be an easy passage to the ACC championship game proved a little more difficult on Saturday afternoon. With Carolina forward John Henson out with a sprained wrist and his replacement, James Michael McAdoo in foul trouble very early in the game, NC State looked poised to dash everyone's hopes for a Duke UNC ACC championship (if...

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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 11:36 pm EST
NC State ended their first half against Boston College with a 3-pointer and then finished the game with TWO 3-pointers in a row to soundly beat BC 57-78. This made me happy. I've never understood what Boston College is doing in this conference in the first place. Also, NC State is such a great scrappy underdog team, I've always loved them. Here's how it works: NC State hates UNC and thinks... | more...
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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
Later in life, will CL ensure that I'll be able to connect to Omnivore by simply gazing into my infant's eyes during a feeding?

That is so awesome."
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On Tuesday, [http://clatl.com/omnivore/archives/2012/03/06/win-tickets-to-sweetwaters-brew-your-cask-off-and-try-xl-cls-40th-anniversary-ale|I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater]. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
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That is so awesome."
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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative Loafing be presented in a town-crier format, where the news, local restaurant reviews and "Are you Shaved?" are read aloud in public squares by folks sentenced for misdemeanors in Fulton and DeKalb.

Congrats, Steve! 

The runner up, who doesn't win anything but my undying love, is Nicole Wójcik, who sent an entry that included this:

In five years, will CL have a homepage compatible with my internet-ready Acuvue Konnectd contact lenses?
 
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That is so awesome.             13066763 4974292                          Omnivore - Brew Your Cask Off ticket winners "
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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 04:21 pm EST

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On Tuesday, I asked folks to tell us what they'd like to see from CL over the next 40 years for a chance to win tickets to this weekend's Brew Your Cask Off event at Sweetwater. I got a ton of great responses, some hilarious and some thoughtful. But my favorite was this, by Steve Luxenberg:

Since newsprint is so passe, and the interwebs are dying, I'd like to see Creative...

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Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!"
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Also, [http://clatl.com/freshloaf/archives/2012/03/08/acc-tournament-gets-going-at-phillips-arenaam-i-the-only-person-in-atlanta-who-cares|I'm at the ACC Tournament]. Woo-hoo!!"
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Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!             13066758 4973971                          Omnivore - Fresh Loaf has some stuff on it: Atlanta food deserts, me blabbing about basketball "
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Article

Thursday March 8, 2012 02:59 pm EST

A couple of things of note over on Fresh Loaf: Thomas Wheatley has a post up about the frightening U.S. Department of Agriculture's map of Atlanta's food deserts. That's deserts, not desserts, don't get your hopes up.

Also, I'm at the ACC Tournament. Woo-hoo!!

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