Celebrity chef Richard Blais is best known for the whimsical dishes he created on the television cooking competition Top Chef, but his love of all things culinary is more personal than molecular gastronomy or fine dining. “I ate everything as a child, but certainly growing up in a blue-collar, working family there wasn’t much ‘gourmet’ happening,” he says. Since taking home the Top Chef title on the series’ all-star season, Blais has gone on to open several restaurants, pen a couple tomes, judge countless cooking shows, and launch his own podcast. On April 11, he’ll share his love of avant-garde cuisine and the science of food at the South Florida Science Center and Aquarium’s annual gala at The Breakers in Palm Beach. PBI caught up with Blais for a round of rapid-fire questions on everything from ingredients to inspiration.
1. How he became a chef: “To be honest, I sort of fell into it. I always worked in restaurants, and eventually fell in love with cooking. Or more accurately, I lost track of time while learning the craft.”
2. Biggest takeaway from Top Chef: “I certainly learned how to make things happen under pressure, and how to let go a bit and just have fun.”
3. How he conceptualizes a new dish: “Inspiration comes from everywhere. The classics are always a good thing to reference and then build upon.”
4. Go-to kitchen gadget: “My team built a prototype flamethrower, so that’s fun!”
5. Current favorite ingredients: “Dried Persian lime? Caraway? Nutmeg? These things change all the time.”
6. Non-chef celebrities and artists who inspire him: “Wes Anderson, Serena Williams, Vampire Weekend, Q-Tip, Migos, Hans Christian Andersen, Malcolm Gladwell, and Gary Vaynerchuk.”
7. His podcast philosophy: “My podcast focuses less on food, more on the behind-the-scenes and personalities behind your favorite restaurants, food-focused TV shows, etc. In general, analogies and abstract comparisons help a listener understand what you’re referring to.”