Last night on Top Chef All Stars the last two cheftestants—Atlanta-based Richard Blais and DC-based Mikey Isabella—went mano-a-mano in the season finale. We were rooting for Blais but bet on Isabella, mistakenly persuaded by what we thought to be a Colicchio-bias towards the latter. This morning, we were happy to dial up Top Chef Richard Blais to find out what he's doing with the $200,000. We covered other subjects, too, including how plastered—or not—Isabella was during the live post-finale show.
So now what? $200,000!
It's so fresh; I haven't figured out the money, but I know I'm going to put some of it into my restaurants, and put some away for my daughter's education.
Tell us about the restaurants you run in the southeast.
I have a group of Flip Burger restaurants—two in Atlanta and one in Birmingham, AL, and we're opening a pig-centric concept in the spring, in Atlanta. We're trying to make some TV happen as well as a book, and I'm doing this unbelievable work with the National Pork Board.
What are you doing with the National Pork Board?
I'm just kinda working on their new campaign. [It used to be Pork: The Other White Meat. Now it's Pork: Be Inspired, in order to increase pork sales.] They're looking at some traditional recipes, and I'm "Blaisizing" them. It's an ingredient I turn to often, especially on Top Chef.
Random. What about the TV show we heard you were doing?
We shot a few episodes of Blais Off! but it hasn't been picked up.
We watched Marcel Vigneron's SyFy show Marcel's Quantum Kitchen the other night... [On Tuesdays, 10PM est. Not terrible, though Marcel is most compelling when he's at his worst, throwing passive-aggressive tantrums—which don't occur nearly enough.]
Right on. There's definitely TV in my future, too. We'll just have to see.
And, as for the book?
It's still in its initial stages. Right now it's just me and my Moleskine just banging out some ideas.
How often do you leave Atlanta to travel to NY, Chicago or other major food cities?
I'm a native New Yorker and I've been spending a lot of time in NYC lately. I've already been here four times this calendar year. I'd love to do a casual fine dining concept in NYC one day. As far as Chicago, I'll be there soon, and I want to check out [Top Chef] Stephanie Izard's Girl & The Goat.
When you were in NYC last, did you go to Top Cheffer Angelo Sosa's new spot Social Eatz?
Yes, I attended Angelo's opening party and thought it was fantastic. I love his chicken wings—they're a spin on traditional Korean chicken wings: A mix of spice and sweetness with a beautiful crunch.
Where else do you love to go when you're in town?
I'm all over the place. I'm a big fan of Wylie Dufresne and love wd-50. Anything that Eric Ripert does, I'm a big fan of. And I love the burger at Minetta Tavern. I'm a Black Label guy, and a bone marrow guy, for sure. Any David Chang concept I love—I've probably been to Ma Peche three times in the last two months, and I love Milk Bar. That corn cookie that [Christina Tosi does] is unbelievable.
Do you have a low-brow favorite? Something off the street?
Gyros. I'm all about this souvlaki Euro platter from a food truck near Columbus Circle. I actually bumped into Thomas Keller there. I was with Antonia Lofaso and he was walking out of Duane Reade, and then he invited me back to Per Se. I kinda look at Thomas Keller as a father figure, so it was great running into him.
Have you been to Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle's Kin Shop or his other spot Perilla?
Not yet, but we're good buddies so I'll be there soon. I was hanging out with Harold yesterday.
Right, he showed up to the live post-finale show. Which leads us to: Was Mikey Isabella bombed? What was he drinking?
Um... Was Mike Isabella drunk? I'm not sure. You know, I'm not sure what he was drinking. But I'm sure everyone was having a good time.
Ok, final question of critical importance. We were wondering if you do your own hair [or if you just stick a fork in an electrical socket before every show]. What does that entail?
I use Bumble & Bumble sumotech hair gel. It only takes 30 seconds to get my hair to look that way. [The Feast]
Related on The Feast:
List: The Best of NYC According to Richard Blais
Q&A: All Exit Interviews with Top Chef All Stars
Gallery: Does Starring on Top Chef Guarantee a Hit?