“Top Chef” Richard Blais at the Top of His Game

2011 has been huge for “Top Chef All-Star” Richard Blais, with his Bravo win and a new “haute doggery,” just to name a few. But he might just top it this upcoming year when The Spence opens in Atlanta in February. We chatted with this chef mastermind, found out some juicy details about his new restaurant, and a thing or two about what he's up to in his hometown. This top chef not only dishes out crazy good food, he makes t-shirts and pops-and-locks, too.

We wish we were based in Atlanta–we’re missing a lot of great things from you these days! What’s new at Flip Burger? 
Flip is really into reminding our guests that we use great ingredients right now. Of course, people know us for off-the-wall flavor combos and liquid nitrogen shakes, but we use a few great farmers like Border Springs Lamb, Benton's bacon, and some local Farmers in the Atlanta area.

Your hot dog joint HD1 opened in September. Tell us all about it.
[It’s] a haute doggery. [We use] all local meats, either made by a local charcutier or ground in house. It's a super casual, quick-service place focusing on " food you want to stuff your face with " canned beers and vintage sodas, a lot of fun.

Hamburgers and hot dogs can be pretty standard, but with you, we know it can’t be that simple. How are you reinventing these American favorites?
HD1 serves a dog with tripe and oxtail--some consider that out there. Flip has of course a foie gras milkshake and a sous-vide-then-fried burger. I think it's all pretty current. We go around shooting burgers with ray guns, and then transform them back into patties, and then cook that in the microwave.

A past episode of 1st Look was all about unique dining experiences. We know that you are the master of creating such experiences, but what’s your craziest food memory?
My craziest food memory is still my honeymoon dinner at El Bulli. But I just tricked the prettiest girl in the world to marry me, so the surreal aspects of the experience had more to do with my company. I think that's how it works. And the first time I drank milk straight from a cow, yeah that was crazy. Or, [the time] when I had three McRibs in a sitting... all crazy for different reasons.

Have you ever heard of the culinary club called The Gastronauts? They explore foods from other countries, like balut (16-day fertilized duck egg), shirako (cod milt), kokorec (lamb intestines stuffed w veal sweetbreads). Would you ever join a club like this?
Sounds fun! I've done the cod sperm... what do these folks look like? I’m envisioning the comic book character from The Simpsons.

If the sky were the limit and you could create any restaurant, where and what would it be?
A "menu changes every day" jeans and t-shirt type of casual place in the Bay Area. A chalkboard, a tiny kitchen, a good view maybe... yeah. I should be careful what I wish for.

And speaking of opening restaurants, we hear February 2012 is going to be a big month for you. What can people expect from you and your team at The Spence?
Bone-in salisbury steak. A wood-burning rotisserie. Ducks and lambs. A salad with some dates maybe. Black garlic spaghetti. Dover sole and English muffins. A date night place... a hang out.

What are you doing at The Spence that’s unlike anything in the Atlanta dining scene?
I'm going to serve our staff family meal for $1 until it runs out that night.

Let’s take a break from the foodie chat. Congrats on running the NYC Marathon. What an achievement! Are there any other hobbies or alternative activities you’re really digging right now?
I enjoy running, may do another one this year. I'm thinking about joining a hockey or lacrosse league (I played in high school). I'm collecting vintage spoons and tableware. Oh! I just started a t-shirt company, Tasty Cotton!

Is there ever a moment you just want to throw down a dance move? What is your dance move and go-to venue for a good night out?
Yes, it's the robot, or an occasional pop-locking session... I'm a dork. I party at home with my kids!

What are your plans for the holidays? Did you cook this Thanksgiving?

Yes, we had about 13 people come over. Tamale-stuffed turkey is this year’s new dish. Lots of veg, and this year, a cheesecake!

Lastly, in light of the holiday cheer, are there any amazing organizations or charity groups out there right now that you’d like to give a shout out to?
Alliance For a Healthier Generation. I'm working with them through the marathon. Check outcrowdrise.com/rblais and Charity Buzz to bid on a private cooking lesson with me!

664 N Highland Ave NE
Atlanta, GA 30306

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