Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
FLIP is now open, just about a week now. We went from first to 4th gear right away, and for our first weekend cooked for over 1200 people. Of course this is good news. And for those of you who know anything about opening a new restaurant, it means total chaos behind the scenes.
We actually have one kitchen member designated to solely prepare sweet potato tots, which has turned out to be a process, to say the least.
I will be at FLIP every day this week. So please stop by, grab a milkshake or a cocktail, and say hello at my personally designed “burger bar”. Here, you can sit upfront with me and chef Mark Nanna. Please come with an open mind for colorful language !
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Another few teasers from the Flip menu. It is looking like the second week of December. I will update later this week as to the firm opening date.
BUTCHER + CARAMELIZED ONION + BLUE CHEESE + RED WINE JAM 8
COUNTRY FRIED + PIMENTO CHEESE + PICKLED OKRA 7
DELUXE + FOIE GRAS + WAGYU BEEF + SHAVED TRUFFLE 24
BREAKFAST + PORK SAUSAGE + FRIED EGG + MAPLE 7
PATE MELT + VIETNAMESE SALAD + JALAPENO + SMOKED MAYONNAISE 8
ROOTBEER + SPICED RUM ICE CREAM + TAMARIND
I’m literally sick and tired.
The Beard dinner was killer.
CJ kicked it off with some canapes. Antonia Lofaso followed with a lobster ravioli. Lee Anne Wong did a goat cheese and truffle salad, Hung did a cod dish, Stephanie Izard came next with a duo of pork belly and duck. Dale Levitski put out a venison dish and I attempted a dessert of parsley root and Dr. Pepper.
Really well done. Not a lot of ego and an overall great time.
It’s time to reflect and prepare for the New Year.
The next few weeks will see me focus on Flip and the family. But I’m looking to bear down in 09 and get a few serious cuisine projects going. News to come!
Thursday, November 13, 2008
So thanks for reminding me that things are pretty good Lisa.
I’m traveling the country. Soon the world perhaps, growing a family, and doing what I love. Cooking, and OK, eating. I have people who love me around. And with dramatic ups and downs of this swaying branch of a career, I have a stout, strong foundation at it’s trunk.
So I’ve done a James Beard dinner in Philadelphia, and some work in Jamaica since we left off. And I’m heading to San Diego, San Francisco, and New York City all in the next 7 days.
This is a question some people ask. So I’ll give it a shot.
As a working chef for the last 13 years, I’ve dreamt about some of the things I’m experiencing now. I get calls almost daily to do demonstrations, cook guest dinners, make appearances, help charities, lecture, provide culinary entertainment, help develop products, and speak.
I’m talking with investors, some who seem to share my vision. I’m meeting with restauranteurs who want me to design concepts. I’m pitching and working on making a few television shows happen.
All of this is very exciting. All of this is, at times, frustrating and like tonight, exhausting.
Honestly, some of it is to put bread on the table. But most of it is to learn, experience and grow as a chef/individual/business.
I’m sure there are a ton of chefs who have or are ready to call me a "sell-out" for working with big corporations, pursuing more TV and the like. I'll admit, a few years ago I may have been one of them.
But I can tell you, as with most things, cooking on the road and talking while doing it, presenting an idea or vision, and making it happen with the normalcy of things always going wrong, and constantly being in the public eye is, well, as tough as running a restaurant. Or writing a sentence thats not a run-on ( wink ).
I’ve traded in the challenges of cooking in 30 minutes, for those of sourcing liquid nitrogen in a country that has difficulty sourcing hot water. I’ve traded the bottom line driven restauranteur, for the bottom line driven event planner, and I’ve traded the chopping block for a room filled with not Padma and Tom, but network executives.
The grass is always greener...
Thursday, November 6, 2008
The anticipation is killing me! As we get closer to Flip's opening, I will be releasing a few previews of my favorite menu items. We are shooting for opening the week before Thanksgiving. Let me know what you think.....
CORNED BEEF + CABBBAGE + POACHED EGG 7
SMOKED BEEF + COLE SLAW + RBQ SAUCE 7
PHILLY + CHEESE WHIZ FOAM + GREEN PEPPERS 7
BEEF TARTARE + CAPERS + AIOLI + CORNICHONS 11
TURKEY + MUSHROOM + POBLANO + AVOCADO PEPPER JACK 6
FAUX BURGER + FARM HOUSE CHEESE + SWEET SOY KETCHUP 7
FLIP SIDES 4
SWEET POTATO TOTS
VODKA BATTERED ONION RINGS
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Recently, I entered the next phase of my post Top Chef existence.
There are still people who yell out “Top Chef”. There are encounters that start with, “Hey Richard”. There are frequently times people shout out “ you should have won”, or “ banana scallops”. There are, believe it or not, some who yell “ I love you”. For the record these tend to be slightly bearded and more than slightly overweight men. However now I get a lot more puzzled looks, and mostly this:
“Where do I know you from?”
If I was single and better looking, I’d think this was a sure pick up line, no ?
I do like this, as it’s presents an interesting engagement. Here are my personal rules for my behavior in such situations:
I’m not going to say that you know me from Top Chef or Iron chef or TV. It’s not going to happen. It’s a bad recipe. The first time I did this, the gentleman said, "no, I thought you were Craig Wilson from softball". So, I affectionately call this the Craig Wilson rule. You have to guess. I’m not going to be that douche bag that says, Oh, you probably know me from this television show, so you can then say that you thought we went to elementary school together. BTW, softball ?
I will say that I’m a chef. That's my only hint and of course I’ll introduce myself if it gets to that point. After that, you're on your own. There have been a few times that this triggers their memory a few yards after we disengage. Then, the inevitable shout across the airport is (my favorite), “oh yeah, Americas next Top Chef”. It is amusing.
I also will play for a bit if it seems we may actually know each other from some other encounter, you never know. So, there have been times where I’ve said, yes, I have been to Florida, I did live in New York, I did play little league baseball or no, I haven’t been on That Seventies Show. Yeah...that last one really threw me too!
And of course there are moments where people don’t say anything. That is how I would play it. In fact, that is how I have played it! I once followed Al Horford, one of my favorite basketball players for a few hundred yards not getting the nerve to say hello. For all of my friends, that's how I “know” Al Horford. I’d like to think that because Al Horford could palm my skull, that had to do with not pulling the trigger, nope. I did the same thing to Alton Brown once. Of course now I know Alton enough to walk up and say hello, so please don’t tell him that I stalked him at LaGuardia once.
BTW... If you are in NYC, I will be at Grand Central tomorrow from 12-2 for a charity event Bravo is hosting. Come say hello...
Friday, October 17, 2008
10/24 NYC, Top Chef tour at Union Square
10/25 NYC, Top Chef tour at Union Square
10/27 NYC, a Bravo event for charity
10/31 Atlanta, Veuve Cliquot's Yelloween
11/6 Philadedlphia, Tangerine Restaurant for James Beard Foundation dinner
11/7 Hyde Park, CIA
11/8 Hyde Park, CIA
11/9-11/12 Kingston, Jamaica, Red Stripe
11/14-11/15 San Diego, Wine & Food Fest
11/19-11/21 NYC, details to follow
12/6 Perry, GA, iVillage prize dinner
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Taste of Atlanta was very impressive. I’ve been doing a lot of these types of food festivals lately and this one was very organized. A tip of the ol' dodgers cap to the people behind it... Good enough that I’d like to book for next year, wink, wink.
What came from the event, however, was what made it worth the time.
We need a DJ !
Not, literally, but I got to see G. Garvin go on stage after me, and he had the crowd amped with hip-hop mash ups and the sort. I think he even had a warm-up act!
Now for the record, I had no idea who G. Garvin was and I still don’t, but his show really inspired me.
If we are going to do demonstrations as regularly as we have; then we need to really think about the “show” not from just an informative stand point but as entertainment.
I’ll be turning this in the think tank for a few, and I’m sure we will figure out some neat ways to deliver better entertainment bang for the buck. If anyone wants to put together some intro music... hit me up!
Lot’s of fans at TOA, here are a few crazy groupies. Luckily, my wife was in the audience, as these girls were, well, all over me...
Overall, a good show. A different crowd for sure, one that made for some great discussion , and intense ideating. I just like that word. Is it a word?
Catering. There’s a word I hate. Not the application, just the imagery of the word. Is there a better one ?
It is a strange juxtaposition. Many of these events and shows feature my demonstration and then catered food. For the large scale, this is neccessary. BUT....
I like "cocktail cuisine", passed food, and events. There’s something igniting here, even though it sounds common.
In other random news.
The dodgers suck, really blew it last night. neatest contact of the RCA night, and I say this with all due respect to all who I met. Meeting the wife of the guy who owns Distant Replays in Atlanta. The vintage sports clothing store.
Lenny Dykstra, away jersey, Mets, size 42 , I’m just sayin...
And I hope I’m not embarassing myself with my Housewives blog, just trying to keep it real! Check it out here.
Friday, October 10, 2008
We did 2 courses.
hamachi with fried chicken feet and smoked mayonnaise ravioli ( my personal ode to both chicken of the sea and the chik-fil-A sandwich)
grilled cod with fried clams and apple cider.
it was a night of controlled chaos. Shaun Doty is one of my favorite chefs in Atlanta, and Shaun’s is one of my favorite restaurants.
The whole day made me so hungry for getting a chance to do our food in Atlanta. I am admittedly very jealous of what Shaun has there, in a good way.
I also was reminded again of how a chef needs to be in the kitchen.
In a very complimentary way, Shaun is a mean ol' dog in his kitchen.
Damn, I miss it, and it’s only been a few weeks.
Check us out today on WXIA for a quick promo piece for Taste of Atlanta. And of course catch us Sunday at noon on the main cooking stage in Atlantic Station.
Thursday, October 9, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Aroma. Why is the aroma industry, mainly soap, so avant garde. I mean, I cant remember the last time I came across a soap or shampoo, even candle, that was a simple flavor. I’ve personally washed my hands in Sicilian red orange, mallow and soy, and lemongrass wasabi here on my Delta flight. Maybe I’m in the wrong industry, Maybe I should just develop soap flavors...
Baseball.I’m rooting for the Dodgers in the Baseball playoffs. and the Rays in the AL. The Rays are easy, my wife’s from Tampa, and I also like their caps that read TB, for Trail Blais. But I’m a classicist at heart and since the Mets keep "pulling a Blais" at the end of the season (and since the Dodgers have great tradition) I’m pulling for Dodger Blue this fall. Also, there isn’t a cooler baseball player than Manny Ramirez. Any baseball player that dons Mark Gastineaus jersey number to play left field, not defensive end is just simply a bad ass.
Football. I have a field pass to see the Rambling Wreck Saturday. Should be fun, as I have a new friend who’s playing for Tech. Very much looking forward to seeing this game, versus Duke, who all of a sudden is winning games. I’m going to try and see if Spencer from ( http://www.edsbs.com/ ) will accompany me. Spencer BTW is a really great writer, and even if your not a college football fanatic, you should peep his site out, good stuff. Addicting.
Cocktails. They mostly suck everywhere. They may read interesting, they may try to use interesting “ kitchen” ingredients, but there just aren’t too many bars , especially restaurant bars, doing it right. I think there is a tremendous amount of impact to be made in this area of our cuisine. More to come on that.
Television. I will be blogging Real Housewives, ATL, so in preparation got hooked into a Top Design marathon. Well, not really a marathon, just Bravo’s standard scheduling. And at this point, I think Bravo should just open up a high end strip mall where you can shop for clothes, workout, get your hairs did, and eat a meal. I’m half serious with that idea. as for Top design, gotta love this guy Wisit, not only for his name but also his soft spoken Erkel demeanor.
Celebrity sighting. OK, I am so NOT LA. I was hanging at the bar next to Carlton from Fresh Prince last night. I mean, THE tap dance kid.... I thought it was cool, I’m a dork, and my wife confirmed this when I texted her.
Hotels. Mondrian in West Hollywood rocks, as well did Sky bar and Katana. Ate some black soy beans which tasted like the best popcorn, and a chicken heart which did not...
Religion. I wanted to be Jewish this week. a cool language, their own calendar, and brisket. Happy New Year! Can I work out an honorary membership ?
Fashion. I decided this week that I’m changing my image. Not sure exactly what changes will take place, but it involves easing up on the air force ones and getting some tailored garments.
Politics. Still can't stand Palin but I love Tina Fey! So I'm conflicted...
Economy. very much hoping I can get gas when I touchdown here in ATL. It’s gotta be over by now, no ?
Friday, October 3, 2008
fish sauce salt shakers. We are looking to design a fish sauce shaker. say that very fast a few times.
sweet potato tots. Why not, has anyone seen these anywhere ? you would think so.
smoked mayonnaise. Look for this available on our blog very soon.
edible bubble bath. sounds kinky I know
thermo stick. An immersion stick blender equipped to heat or chill whatever it is mixing.
flavor fumes. Non aerosol atomizers filled with edible flavored propellents. Think parmesan angel hair spray.
I’m on my way to speak to a company about running a new restaurant. I guess it’s not really full disclosure, as I am not going to mention the names behind it, but you get the point.
This is my 4th trip to LA for such a purpose. I find this interesting, in that it seems to be a hot city in the culinary market presently. I’m fielding offers and opportunities from other places as well, but LA seems to be calling much more frequently. We will see how it goes...
Last night I dreamed about FLIP, my new burger project opening in Atlanta in a few weeks.
It seems odd, not dreaming about hamburgers, although that is odd perhaps, but odd that this is in essence my simplest culinary endeavor, but the one I am most concerned and serious about.
It symbolizes a few career obstacles.
1. Overcoming the theory of a concept restaurant. It is, it’s a burger place. But I need to drive it with a chef's passion. It will be the only way to truly separate itself in the burger market. I’ve been to too many burger spots in preparing for FLIP, and none, even the ones with real chefs behind them, deliver a "chef driven" experience. Some are just "phoning it in."
2. Excelling in business operations. This thing needs to be tight, when you are talking about 200 units in the future, it must be tight. My staff has no idea how this opening could impact their lives. I do.
3. Not caring about critics ( and I use this title loosely). For as many people who are extremely excited about the opening of FLIP, there are a very small, passionate group of haters who also can’t wait. I’ll be ready for you.
So we are in the stretch run for FLIP, and I’m looking forward to being in that kitchen and experiencing what I think will be a very busy opening. Look for a creative and fun menu, at a low price point, with a modern design.
Also, please reserve a seat or two for my guest appearance cooking two courses at Shaun’s in Inman Park next Wednesday. Shaun Doty has long been a chef I have respected in Atlanta and I’m honored that he asked me to participate in his anniversary dinner.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
The week started in Tampa, where we were met by a serious group of fans. Most notably, a young culinary student, Kassandra, who was so eager to learn, that she came over to Orlando later in the week to help with our demo at Universal City Walk.
So, after spending some much appreciated family time in TB, ( it was Riley’s first plane trip), I headed over to Orlando for a few more classes. I stayed at Portofino, a hotel at Universal that was modeled after an italian port city. That was neat, until I facebooked, "in Italy", and felt bad as many of my friends were all excited for me. Not that Italy...
restauarntBT, Tampa. Great Asian / French food. Riley's first fine dining experience, very cool
Highlight of Orlando, having a small arsenal of stages to help. We are starting to roll deep!
Than, in a slight mix-up, I needed to drive back from Orlando to Tampa at night, and catch a 530 AM flight to
It is set to air the day after Thanksgiving. The holiday themed affair was awesome. I really enjoyed playing within the theme and want you to check it out if you can on that Friday.
And scripted television... a very good experience for me. It’s a different game and it’s the balancing of improv that makes it great. This was an awesome run for me and I’m hoping Turner, a local giant, invites me to do a bit more work. I was feeling it.
And without break, I was at it again for two separate days of shows in Atlanta, the last at Piedmont Park, where I received a much warmer welcome than I anticipated.
Tomorrow, finishing the week, I am at the Atlanta Home show at Cobb Galleria, before getting on a plane to LA for some private functions.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
You’re traveling from state to state, kitchen to kitchen, often working with new chefs, and people of varying degrees of both skill, passion, and drive. It’s tough, but I’m getting good. I’ve learned to get it all in writing, send recipes way in advance, be specific, overly specific, and like the famous line from Mick Jagger, “ you don’t always get what you want, but if you ask, you may get what you need.”
So, doing an event with 4 different companies involved can be tricky or in this case, very easy.
Bravo, the CIA, and the folks at Astor center know how to communicate. Everything I needed was there, everyone was hospitable, and the preparation showed in the results. It was a great class, and once again, the ultimate goal of any business, to procure more business, was achieved. Trail Blais will be heading back to Astor. Trail Blais will be appearing in Hyde Park. And as we wait to hear more concrete info, we will be doing more Bravo related work.
I know I haven’t been covering much about the food we have been producing, but at Astor we were asked to do 3 courses somewhat inspired from Top Chef.
A new Manhattan. a cocktail, we used Michter’s Rye whiskey ( go get some now ! ) smoked some cherries, and whipped up some bliss maple to create a pretty tasty molecular mixology version of my favorite drink.
Raw hamachi with fried chicken and smoked mayonnaise.
A dish I whipped up for Eli ( ENO restaurant ) one night. It’s just the ultimate, “you stuck your sashimi in my fried chicken” sort of thing. And the smoked mayo will soon be packaged and offered on our web site!
Tofu, with beef fat and green curry. This was the first time I revisited this dish and I’m very glad I did. Kevin, from CIA, did such a tight job on mincing the beef fat that we were left with some nice crispies of the fat that added a needed texture to the dish
Dry ice......... cream, with bacon flavor.
We couldn’t source nitrogen, and so I subbed some dry ice and demonstrated, quite honestly, a more applicable way to make creative, quick ice cream at home.
The crowd was awesome, especially a young inspired chef I met named Sam. I am looking forward to working with Sam in the future.
And, the most inspirational moment of the event for me was working with the CIA students. These guys made me very proud to be an Alum. Massive props to Max, Kevin, Patrick, and James. These guys will be my go to help in the NY area from now on...
Monday, September 15, 2008
This trip was full of behind the scenes drama. It actually would have been the perfect pilot for “Trail Blais” the TV show.
Would you watch a show where a rising celebrity chef ( sorry, what else do I call it ) and his team of diverse culinary talent, travel to a Science museum, and work alongside a dysfunctional local caterer. Shot in two drastically different backdrops; a beautiful science and history museum and a 30 year old “catering facility” that I can best describe as a pirate ship, a sinking pirate ship. BTW, the pirates themselves were helpful, nice guys and in the spirit of international football, we traded our blue aprons for their eye patches.
Watch the drama unfold between the guest chef and the local restaurateur obnoxiously protecting his turf. Witness the palpable stress of the pretty PR rep trying to be the glue holding it all together.
Do you want to know what the oldest stock pot in the world looks like ?
Do you enjoy karaoke ?
Have an interest in molecular gastronomy ?
Feel at home with an escort of storm troopers ? (I do, in fact. Look for this. I may just start traveling with Vader’s 501st)
Then, perhaps you would have enjoyed this trip… as a television episode.
Of course, it wasn’t.
The event was a smashing success. MOSH got a great turn out. The guests were more than awesome and once again I feel like I made a few hundred new friends.
In fact, we have been invited back for next year, and I can guarantee it will be a killer show. Bigger, better and stronger.
Culinarily, it was a trip that reminded me of how important some basic things are in our kitchen. Deli containers, green tape (shit, any color tape) vacuum bags, 9 pans (hell, any pans ) and most importantly.... enthusiastic help. All of which were in demand at some point during the weekend.
The presentation, with a science lab as our stage ( how freaking cool is that ), was a good push. This was the first time where we demonstrated a wide array of techniques.
Too many people to thank individually, but thanks to all.
Looking forward to rolling deep at MOSH next year with an army of culinary students… and storm troopers.
Off to NYC, as soon as I clean up the glass from my broken car window. Who breaks into a car for sneakers?
This blog is a true journal and diary ( I carry a murse, it’s a diary )
I feel likes it’s important to note, that my personal feelings are being expressed here, without agenda, except to document my work and travels.
I don’t edit, obviously. I spell check, read it once, and post. I think it’s the only way for it to be, hold on....... real.
I’m keepin it real, son .( glaring mid-nineties hip hop reference)
Monday, September 8, 2008
So, I have resigned my position at Home as of yesterday. It certainly won’t come as a surprise to many, but for many good reasons I just can’t continue my position there.
As an artist, it’s all about creative control. It’s all that matters (at least when it can afford to be all that matters), and the constant struggle between an owner’s view, and a chef’s perspective, has strained me to the point of re-focusing my efforts elsewhere.
It’s time to work for myself, and it’s a liberating feeling.
I have my current commitments to Bravo/NBC, my creative consulting company Trail Blais and my young family to keep me more than busy.
What made my decision very easy were a few uncomfortable meetings, where it was obvious that ownership didn’t value what I brought to the table and were insistent on a very archaic outlook of my position. HOME valued my physical time only, of which at times was limited because of prior commitments. When entering into this partnership, I laid out my full slate of commitments and everything was checked off on and approved. But “in theory” and “in practice” are two different things, I guess.
For the record, HOME tallied a four star review, and drove business up from its previous concept by 67 %. It was the first time I achieved those 2 things together. It was the first 4 star restaurant in that company.... and most likely, no, certainly, the last...
Home has been full every night with not only people searching out a good meal, but people who were coming for me, whether personally, or creatively, it was pretty apparent that this was a successful concept. It was a chef’s restaurant, a rarity in our city. But it never was the chef’s restaurant, and from the beginning, my most loyal fans knew this.
For the first time, it is clear to me, that I am in the position where the guests’ threshold of creativity has reached a parallel with a successful business model. Meaning I think Atlanta is ready for a restaurant that stretches. I know that if it is going to happen in Atlanta, it’s going to happen soon...
I hope Home continues with my team in place, as they have been running the restaurant anyway with much of my time devoted to travel. But it was a very simple choice, and for the first time, a decision where money wasn’t an issue.
I couldn’t be more pleased and excited. I have FLIP ahead, a project where I am the creative vision, I am booked for 3 months out for appearances, and most importantly, can now take some serious time hanging out with Baby Riley and my wife, who has been working her cream puffs off.
As well, there is an interesting opportunity brewing that could mean true artistic freedom.
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Our guest dinner with Sean Brock could have been a disaster. That's a lot of plates, a lot of service and a lot of room for error. Of course, I am never happy with my overall performance (See: "I choked..."), and there were a few things I wish I could change in retrospect. But, we had fun and the guests seem to genuinely enjoy the experience.
McCrady's run by Sean Brock is one of the most creative restaurants in the country. If you haven't heard of it, or Chef Brock, well, you will soon. Check out his blog at http://seanbrock.wordpress.com/
Monday, August 25, 2008
It’s tough to really express myself about this subject. I certainly get put in the molecular camp, and it’s true to a certain degree, but we now are exporting class after class of young chefs who may not understand that making hollandaise IS molecular gastronomy. Furthermore, that the science they are so eager to study is already being taught to them, and in the worst case, is being dismissed as traditional, boring, and well, not cool.
When I was a much younger cook, I just wanted to be French!
And in trying to be so, I stumbled upon things like chlorophyll, produced from juiced spinach. It’s these things, like the discovery of process during cooking that define what most so called “molecular gastronomists” are actually doing.
We’re being observant and curious cooks, in a pursuit of flavor...
Aug 31st @ McCrady’s with chef Sean Brock, Charleston, SC
Sept 11-13 @ Museum of Science and Histroy, Jacksonville, FLA
Sept 14 @ Star Chefs Conference, NYC, NY
Sept 15 @ New York City, NY, Astor Center
Sept 20 @ Tampa, FLA, site TBD, Top Chef Tour
Sept 24 @ Orlando, FLA, Universal Studios. Top Chef Tour
Sept 27 @ Atlanta, GA, Top Chef Tour, site TBD
Sept 28 @ Atlanta, GA, Gwinett Center, Atlanta Home Show
Sept 29 @ Atlanta, GA, Top Chef Tour, site TBD
Sept 30 @ Los Angeles, CA, site TBD
Oct 1 @ Los Angeles, CA, site TBD
Thursday, August 21, 2008
consecutive tour stops, and a little too much entertaining.
But first, I was stopped in the airport in ATL. That happens, and it
seemed pretty standard…
Them: " I loved you on the show, you were great"
Them: " I really loved you on American Idol"
Yikes !!!!! Of course I just said thanks, I mean it's a popular show.
I worked two tour days. The first day with Brian Malarkey from Season 3 and the second day with Antonia Lofaso, my cast mate in Season 4.
We batted it back and forth and really gave a good show on both days. This was the
first stop where I really brought out the toys. Equipped with a
little, OK, a lot of liquid nitrogen and immersion circulators, I
really ramped it up.... I mean it's Hollywood right?
Now here's the thing.... Being ON STAGE all the time is tough. I don't
mean physically on stage, but knowing that everyone you meet, or who
recognizes you walks away with an impression makes you really want to
validate yourself, your performance, your personal character. I've
never not given any supporter or fan everything I have even if it's
only for 2 minutes in passing. It's important. We (Top Chef, quasi
celebrity, e- listers, whatever ) really need to validate the
integrity of what we do. It's a responsibility. But this trip grinded
on me, and for the first time I just wanted to throw on a baseball cap
and some sun glasses, maybe even a fake beard, and just chill out for
a bit, alone...
But I was also doing some business in Laguna Beach, so for really 3
days straight I just really needed to push and be “on”. I love Laguna Beach, what
a place, really gorgeous, like post card beautiful. I got the tour
from my new friends Monica and Brad, had a great meal, even better
conversation, and I hope to be seeing a lot more of Orange County, and
next time with Jazmin and baby Riley.
I'm typing this on my flight back now, in a Dodgers cap.... no beard )
And I am exhausted.
Thursday, August 14, 2008
Thursday, August 7, 2008
In other news, again literally, we shot 2 pieces for the local CBS affiliate that air this week http://www.cbs46.com/video/17108066/
we shot some video for a food website, www.Eatdrinkordie.com , and did a few print pieces and 1 radio show. It's crazytown son !!!
so I am off to LA for another tour stop, with a new Macbook, and the coolest gadget since the immersion circulator......... The I-phone....I have now joined the rest of humanity!
What a trip! Since I am from New York and have a best friend that is Jamaican, I'm into dancehall reggae music and I would say that is a prerequisite to have fun down there (at least it helps). I brought Mark Nanna, now officially recognized in the Jamaican media as Mark Cannon, and since renamed Markus Cannon by me (http://jahkno.com/party-reviews/daydreams-was-more-than-all-white-for-rti ). This is my second trip to JA with Marco, and my third trip in the calendar year working with Red Stripe beer on innovation and events.
Our work had us running a molecular mixology bar at 4 of the main parties over the weekend. We learned many lessons from cooking / mixing for thousands of people at a time.
Mainly, it's as close to chaos, a good chaos mind you, that you'll want to get to.
And we hope we get invited back next year!
“Big Up” to Donette for handling us, and Safia for putting up with my relentless e-mails and text messages.
One of the featured drinks...
some good jamaican rum (Not Appleton, as they are Red Stripes mortal brand enemy!)
mashed up cilantro, thai basil, lemongrass, ginger, mint
double the rum with a lime punch
and finish by floating some red stripe beer, ginger beer, or citrus soda
and if you have it, a swirl of some liquid nitrogen
As I thought about the events on the trip home, and how many people were at each one, I was really left with a very cool feeling about Jamaican people. I mean I didn't see one fight, one almost fight, nothing. And I can't even imagine the last concert or house party I was at that didn't produce some drama. The closest thing to a fight was Mark and I arguing over whether or not to go to an after party....... I won....... we didn't.
And BTW, the resort we were booked at was a nude resort. However, I couldn't convince Mark to trot down to the beach in only flip flops. You don’t get to do that often, I thought it would be fun.
Items left at hotel : a tee shirt and a pair of grey socks.
Monday, July 28, 2008
Kecap manis (a sweet, thick soy sauce) doesn’t do too well at 30,000 ft. As my parcel came out on the carousel, that beautiful aroma of the shiny condiment hit me and probably a few others as well. Back at the hotel, the cleaning person probably thought I murdered someone as I left more than half of my clothes drenched in a dark viscous liquid. Oddly enough, I usually leave an article of clothing behind in hotels, I’m not sure why, but I do. I left my pink crocs in Chicago for example.
Aside from the explosion, the trip went well. Betty Fraser was a trip, even though she kicked her fish back at the restaurant we went too! I’m looking forward to catching up with her again next week in LA.
The fans in Phoenix were awesome. As I was sweating my Parisian scoops off, the natives were perspiration free, and a lot of fun. Another super clean city, as I got a chance to jog both days around downtown, and see the baseball and basketball stadiums. I forgot my ipod, and so once again, I had to run w/o the influence of mid nineties hip-hop.
The next stop on the tour for me is LA next week and I’m looking forward to working again with Antonia Lofaso, my colleague from season 4.
So with the long flight back east, and a longer lay over at the airport ( something I don’t mind, as I get strange enjoyment from airports ), I really started thinking about how all of this traveling, presenting and demonstrating could really have an impact on the creative food movement. And that’s a new goal. I really want to turn as many people on to trying new things with their cooking, or better yet, their dining options. So, I hope I can become a good ambassador of my craft, a much misunderstood genre of food.
Which brings me to this….the day before I flew to Phoenix; I did a phone interview with a Phoenix journalist. (http://thedish.freedomblogging.com/2008/07/24/qa-richard-blais-talks-burgers-top-chef-and-31-course-menus/ ) and the guy, Jesse, really asked some of the best questions I’ve had thrown my way in a bit. I mean, I’m just tired of people asking me if Lisa was a bitch, or if Padma’s hot, like either of them needs my validation.
So then THE question comes, and it always comes…is Atlanta the city for me, or would I be better off in San Fran or NYC. So in answering I, and if you know me, make this long connection to the South being a conservative town and how it may take a bit for them to embrace creative cooking, because, hey, lets be honest, it took the South a long time to embrace civil rights…. And if you just winced, like my wife did, or like my friends at Amuse-Biatch did (http://amuse-biatch.blogspot.com/) then I get why. I guess I have a way of talking that does not drive a direct A to B line, my mind takes the scenic route and I go along for the ride. I certainly didn’t mean anything news worthy of it. However, ironically, on our night out in Phoenix we ran into Jesse Jackson… in Arizona… weird.
So the lesson of the day is to find out if I’m being quoted verbatim, or if the writer is going to write the piece and pepper in a few quotes. This one was verbatim, and inflection, tone and sarcasm just don’t come off well in print.
So it’s back to running a restaurant for a few days, and then, back to Jamaica doing more product development for the new launch of Red Stripe… speak soonest.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
So I randomly got involved with Garrett popcorn. Garrett is a nostalgic gourmet popcorn company based out of Chicago, and recently just opened up a few shoppes in NYC. My mission was to help develop a summer time treat featuring their product, and with the request of using liquid nitrogen, we decided to develop “popcornsicles”
Now many people will think that dipping a popcorn ball on a stick in liquid nitrogen is crazy, and groundbreaking, and well, it is I guess, but it’s also something science teachers have been doing for years. I only address this, because someone, who has way too much time is going to find out that many creative chefs have played around with popcorn and liquid nitrogen, and then someone is going to say he stole that, she did that first, and here we go with the never ending shit storm that the haters bring to the table. Any time more than 1 chef has a similar idea that involves very creative cooking people rush to call him a thief. But no one does this for French fries ?
Off topic, I know.... but if you research some very old science material and work books, you will stumble across these things, like for example, Ferran Adria’s caviar. Now, of course these textbooks don’t have them flavored with apple, or packaged, but you get the point.
So during the 4 days in NYC this past week, a lot happened.
Me and Billy, one of my sous chefs served over 4,000 popcornsicles for free, to everyone ranging from media to, well, honestly, the homeless. It was a great undertaking, and a great experiment for me, as it proved that people easily embrace creative cooking when combined with a familiar flavor. It was very easy to give away a caramel and cheese popcorn ball, even though it was smoking and dipped in liquid nitrogen. Most people find liquid nitrogen scary and/or dangerous. But people know caramel and popcorn, and it made the risk of experiencing something new less intimidating. If we served the popcorn w/o the nitrogen but with an unusual flavor profile, it would not have been received as well. Just some thoughts, but useful ones to me, as I do feel super creative cooking will only grow if it can tip into the mainstream.
I met with a well known publishing house who contacted me in regards to putting together a book. This is crazy, I have always wanted to do this, and also just crazy that they contacted me.
I pitched a television show to a major executive for a major network. I can’t go into it much further, but I couldn’t scrape the Seinfeld episode out of my mind where they pitch what is basically the Seinfeld show to NBC. Also, while we were in Jamaica, Mark and I came up with a
television show based on our driver, called “Driving with Mr. Ricos” or the working title in Jamaica of course “ Soon come...” Even though I was pitching a food show, I figured if it wasn’t going well, that “ Soon come...” would be my last resort, and maybe a way to lighten up the pitch…..
We marched around NYC a lot. And I realized that I don’t just miss being in NYC, but that I need to be in NYC more often. I was literally just running into so many people who write for that magazine, or represent that company, or run those events, or operate those restaurants.
Bullfrog & Baum rock the house…
And we appeared on the TODAY show. Now I’ve done a bit of TV, Top chef, Iron chef, a lot of local stuff, but the TODAY show is like a pretty big deal to me. Needless to say, I was a touch intimidated, as the digital preview to the show read. Morgan Freeman, Meryl Streep, Heidi Klum, and Richard Blais... Richard who ?
I walked by Heidi, couldn’t get enough nerve to say hello, I bumped square into Matt Lauer, and then of course I did the bit with Hoda and Kathie Lee. I grew up with Kathie Lee man, that’s crazytown…
So the Garrett event went well. I hope they invite me to do more work with the brand, they are good people for sure.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
So in a few days I head out to Phoenix for my second stop on the top chef tour. The tour brings top chef contestants from different seasons together for a day of demonstrations on a 48 foot bus equipped with a kitchen of course.
My first stop was Columbus Ohio, where I teamed up with Hung from season 3. And although I was a bit apprehensive of the tour in the beginning ( feeling like it had a bit of muppets on ice aspect to it ) now I’m pretty damn excited about it. See I’m a pretty big college football fan, and I like traveling in general, so visiting Columbus, a city I’ve never been to, and a college football Mecca, was pretty special. Unfortunately, I only glimpsed the Horseshoe as we flew over it on my why back to Atlanta.
I loved Columbus for a few reasons besides the football tradition. It was a really clean city, and when I checked in I immediately went for a run down what I think was actually “Main Street”. The air was fresh, that sounds silly maybe, but it just had a kind of happy quality to the place.
And the people were just amazing. A ton of fans showed up, waving banners, and cheering, and well, if you’re not a rock star, and I’m not, this was a small taste of what it must feel like. It’s pretty damn cool for sure.
Hung was a trip, we have met before, when out of no where he and Casey ( season 3) showed up in my restaurant, but we didn’t get a chance to hang out that night. I remember Hung got a lot of junk for being a jerk during his season, but his personality is pretty common in a professional kitchen. He’s just a confident guy, for good reason , and I’m glad I got a chance to work with him. I really think he’ll be someone I’ll stay in touch with. Hung, a few days later in NYC, returned volley on the meal I prepared for him in ATL, and it was excellent.
So, next on the tour is Phoenix, Arizona. Another place I’ve never been and another chef to work with that I don’t know much about. I’ll be working with Betty Fraser ( season 2) and I’ll be bringing some very cold ingredients to combat the desert heat!