This is a fun one. I’ve known Richard Blais for a long while, and we tend to bring the best stories out of each other.
Like golf foraging. When most of us lose our golf balls in the bushes, we venture into the brush and come out with scrapes and a handful of profanities. When chef Richard Blais sucks at golf, he goes into the brush and comes out with wild fennel and some carrots for dinner.
When he opened his first restaurant at Park Hyatt Aviara in Carlsbad—Ember & Rye, a modern steakhouse with a wood-burning grill that’s always on fire above the 18-hole course—he took up the clubs.
“So maybe occasionally my ball would go into the bushes,” he admits. “I go in there to get it and I found all this wild fennel and carrots and radishes and garlic and nasturtiums.” Over the last year, fans who know Richard through Top Chef and Guy’s Grocery Games and his new show on Fox, Next Level Chef, may have looked at his Instagram and wondered if he was training for the PGA.
“I became a golf influencer,” he says. “I got a free hat.”
Richard is on fire. On Next Level Chef he’s teamed up with Gordon Ramsey and Nyesha Arrington in a cooking competition show that’s probably got the most elaborate set in the history of food competition shows—a three-level “restaurant.” Competitors start in the basement and move their way up with each challenge.
“We shot the first season in Vegas,” he says, “and at the time it was the tallest non-permanent structure in the city. What an odd stat.”
Richard and I have known each other for years at this point. He and I talk about his restaurants (“no matter how much media I do, I always come back to the kitchen—I love restaurant life”), rank the classic side dishes for American steakhouses and how Ember & Rye tweaks the standards (ie, the traditional creamed corn becomes corn creme brulee). I relay one of my earliest Richard memories when we were both on a TV show together and the producers made me take off my glasses because they couldn’t have “two guys with big hair wearing glasses.” I spent the entire episode unable to see what the cooks were making (“looks like Karen’s got lobster,” I’d say, and someone else would say, “yep, that’s skirt steak”).
It’s a great, free-association conversation between a couple friends, one of whom happens to be one of the most accomplished chefs in the country who calls San Diego home.