Thursday, December 17, 2009
Me prepping for the Sous Vide Supreme infomercial. Care to guess how many pounds of makeup I have on for this?
An army of Sous Vide Supremes.
Want your own? Use the promo code "blais" for $25 off. Go to www.sousvidesupreme.com for more info!
Monday, November 9, 2009
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
2 eat : burgers (of course) and brasserie food. More to come, stand by.
2 cook: Rethinking tradition as usual, and I’m on a bolognese kick...carrot bolognese
2 drink: Mineral water... salty and effervescent
2 read: Botany of Desire (Pollan)
2 listen 2: The Cranes
2 play: Peek-a-boo and “Chase me” with Riley
2 watch: Top Chef 6 and EPL
2 travel: FLA, NYC & DC
2 invest: Veg concept and Modern Brasseries
2 exercise: Running outside in the rain & swimming laps
2 feed Riley: Lentils with mustard vinaigrette
2 network: Twitter @richardblais & @trail_blais
2 cheer: Florida Gators
2 write: Modern cuisine in the home...
Monday, August 17, 2009
It’s worth mentioning, that I have very little experience cooking Mexican food. I have Mexican chefs on my staff. I eat Mexican food. But just haven’t made too many tamales in my day. But Chef Bayless was one of the first chefs I witnessed doing a demonstration when I was in culinary school. He prepared cactus that day. How neat is that ! And He struck me that day as admirable.
He’s such an intellect and one of the most thoughtful cooks I’ve ever worked with. His passion is obvious and contagious.
As we were cooking and discussing the dishes, it hit me that I was caught in a sheer moment of inspiration. It wasn’t that Rick was introducing me to new ingredients, like cactus for example, he wasn’t. He was showing me that burnt is relative. And I know that sounds weird. Just as some would say that liquid nitrogen awakens a new world of cold food techniques. With just a grill, or oven, Chef Bayless was taking me into a world of flavor that I, or any of my mentors don’t usually enter. Beyond burned.
In one of my interviews, I referred to his food as rustic. Wrong choice of words. His inspiration may be so, but his food is precise and technical. Often, when we say technical these days, the mind goes to gram scales and molecular gastronomy or The French Laundry and sauces strained a thousand times. Here however, Bayless takes common pieces of equipment, and ingredients, and really breaks them down. I mean, quite literally, breaks them down.
At one point Bayless was discussing a recipe that took him years to perfect. I don’t remember it specifically, but it involved charring to ash and developing flavor, at a point where most cuisines would consider the dish burned. Garbage. This conversation opened up a million new avenues for my own cuisine. We had honed in on the exact reason why I wanted to work with him.
As I was preparing the pork dish and it’s sauce/braising liquid, he asked me to sear the tomatillo puree in pork fat. We discussed the quality of pork fat he uses. I mentioned that we were in essence doing “pincage”, a classic French technique of roasting tomato paste before a braise. He didn’t know, or more likely, didn’t care what it was called in French. But it was a light bulb moment. A solid connection between his food and mine. Here was a precise classic technique I was familiar with and it was spun under the guise of simple Mexican food. With burnt onions and tomatillos. A lowly cut of pork. It was authentic, and Mexican, and new to me. It was also absurdly delicious. A goal, maybe THE goal, of technical precision in a kitchen that is sometimes overlooked.
People have been curious why Hubert Keller cleaned up with the judges, and why Bayless cleaned up with the guests and those two opinions could be (seemingly) so skewed. It comes down to flavor versus technique, pure and simple. Don’t get me wrong, Keller rocked it. He took a different route. Presenting tiny tastes. Beautifully plated. Absolutely killed it with technique. Obviously accomplished a lot of work. And the judges saw that. He deserved the win. But Bayless’ food was the exact opposite. It’s not apparent at first glance but there is so much technique and precision going into the food. He under promises, and over delivers.
Just like his personality. The gentle teddy bear of a chef you have seen on the TV screen, the one who at times reminded me of Ned Flanders from the Simpsons, is a tremendous leader. Call it democratic, or collaborative. The players coach, or leading by example, whatever. But throughout those few days he brought an oddball team (lets be honest) together to execute his food. He got us to understand his vision, and feel connected, as if we were all in it together. And for as much credit as I’d like to get for being a part of that cohesion, he would have done just fine with 3 monkeys helping.
Bayless runs a tight, authoratative, “ yes chef”, or maybe in this case, “Si, chef” ship. He’s the chef, it’s his show and don’t forget it. It’s clear from his movements and knowledge. And I’d take a guess that he’s boiled over once or twice. Just as any great chef has. Just as I have. And just as Michael Chiarello may have over those few days.
I don’t think there’s any need to detail the events of those few days in regards to my comments or Chef Chiarello’s actions. But I do think that there is a need to express a simple fact. Everyone has a personality. We all, 100%, talk smack in those interview rooms, or in our walk-ins, or on our couches watching “what happens now”. It’s human nature, and it’s quite unnatural to think that, for example, I’m a nice guy all the time. I’m not. Ask my staff, eek, ask my wife ?
Editing is a powerful tool but its not a mirror.
Why would you want there to only be Tim Tebows ( good guys ) and Mike Vicks ( bad guys )? Certainly there are people in the middle of that spectrum?
What struck me most, after this episode was when someone wrote on my Facebook wall, that my comments were very “UnRichard-like". Actually, they were very Richard like. Curt, an attempt, albeit an ill attempt at humor, and not at all very serious. But perhaps not very much like the edited Richard. The loveable loser, molecular gastronomist, faux hawked, give his prize away team player. That Richard has become, although it is me, and it is unscripted, my absolute character...
And with that being said, it’s unreasonable to think that Michael Chiarello, Hubert Keller, or Rick Bayless, aren’t jerks some times. Because although they may be master chefs all the time, I doubt they are flawless all the time.
Don't forget to check out my newest article coming out mid-week on Creative Loafing and I'll be blogging for the upcoming season of Top Chef starting on Wednesday!
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
It was a very random call. Someone who wants to meet about going on a television show focusing on competition cooking. They wanted to talk to me about it. They didn’t really say what they wanted to talk about. But they were in town and what the heck. Sure, I’ll swing by the hotel and chat for a few.
The show was Top Chef.
I was runinng the kitchen at a place in Midtown. We had just gotten our “tattoo’s”. Our reviews. So fresh were the reviews, that ever since I’ve made up a story of how the casting team must have been enjoying their continental breakfast. Slurping some coffee. When they stumbled upon a picture of me in goggles, surrounded by smoke, blasting a tomato with pressurized nitrogen. I still don’t know if that’s the truth. But it sounds good.
Of course, I thought they were just filming in Atlanta. Maybe they wanted to do some research on the area. Maybe even wanted a set of local hands to help with a challenge. Engulfed by my ego, they probably just wanted a guest chef, a judge perhaps.
I showed up in a Barcelona football shirt. Exhausted from the night before. Disheveled. Although, I guess my general look is disheveled. They told me I looked European. Compliment? And oh yeah, there was a camera on in this hotel room... with 2 strangers. The only stories I’ve seen like this usually ends up with the person on camera naked. Or in a bathtub minus a kidney. Where the hell am I? I do have a pair of surgical tweezers and a spoon, though. If these guys get freaky I’ll just quenelle my way out of here I guess!
But they don’t want a guest judge, or a local assistant. They want cast members.
I remember the first 10 seconds of this realization causing anger. I mean, I’ve already opened and closed a ton of restaurants. I’ve done Iron Chef America! Nailed a few reviews. Already started building a National reputation. Then the anger became more of a gut check.
No one knows anything about the Atlanta food scene. We are a small pond. And I’m a medium sized fish here. If I got a chance to participate in this. The only thing holding me back would be fear. I’d be such a punk to not to take this challenge. To rest on the laurels of my mid sized accomplishments, in our mid sized city.
From inside the fish bowl, things outside became clearer.
The worst that could happen. Personal embarrassment. What’s new about that?
The best. An amazing experience. Enormous national exposure for everything about me and my company and my team. A prize or two.
There are so many times, as a chef, we reach a level of our profession and decide we can’t go back. Sometimes it means we don’t want to take a sous chef position after being an Exec. We can’t go to hourly from salary. We don’t want to work in a place that can’t afford caviar and truffles. For me, it was going back to being one of a group of young chefs competing in front of millions of viewers day after day. Another face in the crowd. Cooking, by myself, under extreme conditions..
It was, and I know this will sound so cheesy and romantic, but it was a chance to fall in love again. Rediscover the things that got me to this point in the first place. I didn’t need any clipboards for this. I didn’t need to worry about P&L’s or how to keep an under funded restaurant open. It was me and my knives. Ok... and my pressure cooker, immersion circulator, and smoking gun.
Monday, March 23, 2009
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Monday, February 23, 2009
Thanks for the support!
Saturday, February 14, 2009
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Last week I was on the local Atlanta FOX channel, Showtime and the NBC Super Bowl pregame show.
I’ve also filmed some stuff that I can’t discuss much, but will air soon. I shot an episode of Food Detectives with Ted Allen. I participated at NATPE in Las Vegas. My demonstration that day has led to a few opportunities, including reading for a bit as host of a new chef program.
On the cooking front, of course, I’m getting ready for Flip’s expansion. With three cities expected later this year, and up to 9 the following. I just wrapped a dinner at Stevenswood Spa in Mendocino, where chef Patrick Meany is doing some real progressive food. And I’m on my way to meet with two very different groups to discuss a Richard Blais project in Los Angeles.
All of this sounds good and fun. Even typing it is fun and exciting. But, it hit me at some point during this run, that I’m just lucky. And I’m mad about that.
These opportunities just sort of happen. I don’t pursue them. In talking with my wife, I used the analogy that I will share with you now. We don’t know how to fish. We eat plenty of fish. But the reality is that we have a bucket on a boat and every once in awhile a fish jumps in it and dinner is served.
For the most part, we don’t even choose what fish to eat. We don’t get a menu. And the anger sets in when I realize that there are certain fish that I really WANT to eat. But instead of charting a course to find bluefin tuna, we happily nosh on buckets of flounder and smelt. Maybe an occasional cod or striped bass… you kind of get where I’m going, I hope.
Man, some super, high-grade, bluefin sashimi sounds great, doesn’t it?
So here is, a very personal description of that tuna that I seek…
it’s a home in the Bay Area. And don’t read into that so much, people can have multiple homes.
it’s a restaurant concept that incorporates super creative food with the casualness and comfort of your favorite neighborhood spot. And of course I’d like to see that concept happen in San Fran, NYC, LA, or maybe even London.
it’s figuring out what this book is about. Truth be told there are a few people who want to do a book with me and I’m just frozen at the keyboard. I’m never frozen at the keyboard.
it’s a television show that promotes creative cooking to the masses.
it’s having FLIP become an iconic brand.
it’s having Trail Blais develop giant ideas for the way we eat today and finding the connections to make those ideas happen.
it’s a really big fish…
Thursday, January 29, 2009
2 cook: Rethinking tradition as usual and I’m on a bolognese kick.
2 drink: Red wine and coffee.
2 read: Outliers and The Pirates Dilemma
2 listen 2: M.I.A and Vampire weekend
2 play: FIFA 09 ,
2 watch: Top Chef and Lost. Arsenal football, OK, any football.
2 travel: Park City and Italy
2 invest: Flip burger
2 exercise: Running outside in the rain
2 feed Riley: Apples with cardamom. Chick peas with cinnamon
2 network: Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I have to say that I never thought Trail Blais would have so many active areas of interest…particularly in the fields of entertainment and ideation.
Although, I can’t speak in specifics yet, I’m fascinated that my work has been able to create and improve products for companies ranging from beverage importers to (possibly) even our government. It’s an exciting new world. One with a long leash from the stove. But a leash none-the-less.
At the Pennsylvania farm show this weekend, someone asked if I was happy that I don’t cook anymore? This was as I was cooking for them? But I understand the question and the perspective. People have a difficult time viewing a chef as anything but someone who relentlessly toils in a small, closed kitchen.
Some, including my chef at FLIP, like to poke fun at how exhausted I am when I return from my trips. The poor ol’ chef, exhausted from cooking on a stage in NYC for a few days. I get it. I’m still a hard core restaurant chef who understands that culture. But I’m now the darkside. A few lucky turns away from having my own television show, my own creative restaurant, and many burger boutiques.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
Jan. 8 ATL Watching the Mighty Gators beat up (CH)Oklahoma
Jan. 9-11 PA Harrisburg (more specifically) Pennsylvania Farm Show
Jan. 13-17 Undisclosed location for reasons I can't say....yet!
Jan. 27-29 Vegas NAPTE Convention
Jan. 30- TPA Taste of the NFL events w/ Tom, Antonia, Andrew and Spike
Feb 6-8 CA Dinner retreat at Stevenswood Ranch in Mendocino, CA.