3/01/2013 12:08:00 PM

Richard Blais on Life After Top Chef, His New Cookbook and Balancing Career and Family

Former Top Cheftestant and recent Life After Top Chef star Richard Blais just released a new cookbook entitled Try This at Home: Recipes From My Head to Your Plate this week. It was also just announced that he'll be starring in season three of Chopped All-Stars. We chatted with the always-busy Blais to get the lowdown on all his current projects as well as the upcoming Top Chef Cruise that sets sail in April. Check out our chat with him below.

Zagat: From the title of your new cookbook, I gather that the recipes inside are a "cook-at-home" version of Blais?
RB: I think so. It’s a one-on-one-style cookbook. For anyone who's got a little bit of ambition in the kitchen, and likes to cook at home, it’s a home cookbook. For me it’s also sort of a statement that not everything I cook is with a tank of liquid nitrogen - that you don't have to wear an astronaut helmet to cook my food. Well, there might be an ice cream recipe involving liquid nitrogen - but certainly you don't have to use liquid nitrogen to make it.

Zagat: What was that process like for you? Do you write your recipes down?
RB: The book is a collection of a lot of dishes that have been done in different restaurants I've run over the last few years. They were definitely all formulated to a certain degree, but it was important to get someone in to recipe-test who doesn’t work with me every day. I’m a little bit more of a fluid cook, so, yeah, we definitely had to spend some time making sure that the recipes were going to work for everyone.

Zagat: The Top Chef Cruise coming up - what will you be for doing that exactly?
RB: I have at least one live demo, and shows are the thing I enjoy the most in all of my career. There's nothing like demonstrating for a couple hundred people watching in one shot, live. So I love that, and there’s a bunch of other activities. I have not seen the final agenda - there's obviously cooking and appearance stuff as well. 

Zagat: Are there any people from the Top Chef family that you wouldn’t want to be stuck on a boat with?
RB: That probably all depends on the size of the boat...is the PC answer. When you have to spend an extended amount of time with some people...well, there's no one in the Top Chef family that I've ever met that I would say that about. Everyone’s great in small doses, but certainly I wouldn't want to be stuck in a small vessel with some people.

Zagat: Will you be doing Life After Top Chef again?
RB: I don’t know. I’m not privy to those sort of discussions - I haven't heard either way. Whether we'll be doing it again or not, it was certainly a fun experience.

Zagat: Any more TV shows in the works?
RB: I think Chopped All-Stars was just announced. There’s definitely some other stuff. I don’t know what I’ve shot that hasn’t aired yet. There are always guest appearances, and there's always TV work - it’s a big part of what I want to do. The ability to discuss food, and to help people eat better and cook differently...it’s an amazing vehicle, and it's something that I’m learning - how to perform better on TV - and it's something that I want to keep doing.

Zagat: On the show they portrayed your struggle to balance being a chef with your home life; how do you strike a balance?
RB: I mean, it’s always tough. It's not much different than any profession where you have to balance your work schedule with being dedicated and committed to your family. It's tough, but I also don’t really feel like I have a job. I get to cook for a living - I don't wake up and have to punch in anywhere. My job is just sort of my lifestyle anyway. It's not a burden to work.

Zagat: Would you ever do a straight-up cooking show?
RB: I do. We have a digital show that's called Burger Lab on YouTube that’s out right now, which is a 12-episode show, and that’s pretty much a straight-up cooking show that’s fun. I would love to do a direct-to-camera, 30-minute "Hey we're making dinner" cooking show. Absolutely. It happens that most people want the crazy bells and whistles, and the idea of that 30-minute cooking show...believe it or not, those things don't exist as much as they did.

Zagat: What else are you working on right now?
RB: The Spence is nine months old now. Our busiest night to date was this past Valentine's Day. I hope there’s always going to be a television project, a restaurant and a book upcoming. That's sort of the road that I'm on.

Zagat: Would you expand to other cities?
RB: I wouldn't necessarily expand a concept that we have already, but there are some places that I certainly love. I am a native New Yorker, I have passed on some projects in New York because I haven’t been ready or it hasn’t been the right fit. One day I absolutely must in my soul do a project in New York. I also have a strong passion for anything up and down the West Coast, San Diego all the way up to Seattle. 

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