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The new preview for season 12 of ‘Top Chef’ reveals that former contestant Richard Blais will be a judge
This season is sure to have some delicious challenges.
It’s official! While you’re counting down to the new season of Bravo’s Top Chef (which premieres on Wednesday, October 15 at 10 p.m. EST), check out the new trailer for season 12, released over the weekend. As it turns out, former Top Chef runner-up and owner of FLIP Burger Boutique, Richard Blais, will be a judge this season.
Blais took to Twitter to retweet some of his fans’ excited reactions about the news.
RT @Shupette Did I just see that @RichardBlais is a judge on #TopChef this season?!?! #yesplease cc @atleve
— RichardBlais (@RichardBlais) September 8, 2014
RT @abbbrasive TOP CHEF NOW HAS @RICHARDBLAIS AS A JUDGE THIS IS EVERYTHING
— RichardBlais (@RichardBlais) September 7, 2014
Top Chef Season 12 takes place in Boston, and will also feature host Padma Lakshmi and returning judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons. This season also promises a host of surprise guest judges (many of whom are from the Beantown area) like Jacques Pépin, Jamie Bissonnette, Todd English, and Barbara Lynch.
The one local chef contestant this season is Stacy Cogswell, of the Regal Beagle.
Watch the preview of Top Chef season 12 here.
For the latest happenings in the food and drink world, visit our Food News page.
Joanna Fantozzi is an Associate Editor with The Daily Meal. Follow her on [email protected]
Top Chef All Stars Return to Make Superfans' Culinary Dreams Come True in Top Chef Amateurs
Gail Simmons hosts Bravo's newest culinary competition series premiering this July.
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Fans have long fantasized about getting the chance to cook in the iconic Top Chef kitchen. Now, 24 lucky and talented superfans will be doing just that — with the help of some familiar faces — in the new Bravo series Top Chef Amateurs, which premieres with two back-to-back episodes on Thursday, July 1 at 9/8c, immediately following the Season 18 finale of Bravo's Top Chef in Portland. You can get a special first look at Top Chef Amateurs on Thursday, May 27 at 9/8c.
Hosted by longtime Top Chef judge Gail Simmons, Top Chef Amateurs will feature home cooks from all walks of life — from formerly working in the CIA to currently serving lunch in the school cafeteria. In each 30-minute episode, two amateur chefs will go head-to-head to put their culinary skills to the test in fan-favorite challenges previously seen on Top Chef, such as creating a dish inspired by one of the seven deadly sins, the mise-en-place race, and the blind taste test.
11 Things You Didn't Know About Richard Blais — Chopped All-Stars
Chef Richard Blais and basket, as seen on Food Network’s Chopped All Stars, Season 14.
Photo by: Janet Rhodes ©2012, Television Food Network, G.P.
Janet Rhodes, 2012, Television Food Network, G.P.
FN Dish is counting down to the Season 3 premiere of Chopped All-Stars by introducing a competitor every day. Sixteen competitors including Food Network and Cooking Channel talent, renowned chefs, Chopped judges and celebrities are competing for a chance to win the title of All-Stars champion and a $50,000 donation to charity. Watch the premiere on Sunday, April 7, at 9pm/8c and keep coming back to FN Dish for exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes previews.
Richard Blais is best known for winning Top Chef All-Stars and his innovative take on cuisine. A native New Yorker, Richard relocated to Atlanta in 2000, where he founded Trail Blais, a creative culinary company that has consulted on, designed and operates some of Atlanta's most-popular eateries, including The Spence, Flip Burger Boutique and HD1. His first cookbook, Try This at Home: From My Head to Your Plate, was recently released. But there's more about Richard that you don’t know ‑ for example, he loves chicken wings for a late-night snack. Find out more about Richard in his Q&A below.
What's your Achilles' heel ingredient, one that you hate to work with or encounter in someone else's dish?
Richard Blais: I don't hate to work with anything!
What dish or ingredient will we never catch you eating?
What was your most memorable meal? What, where, who? Details, please.
RB: El Bulli restaurant in April 2006. I was on my honeymoon and somehow got a reservation. It was amazing and even more so since my wife and I were celebrating our marriage.
Is there one dish that you always order out and never make at home?
RB: A big steak. My family doesn't eat red meat, so I rarely cook one up for myself at home.
If you weren't in food, what career would you like to have tried?
RB: I would have loved to have been a professional baseball player.
RB: Spaghetti and meatballs. Chocolate milk. What! I slid three things in there! It's my LAST supper. :/
Judges often get into lengthy and heated debates about which contestant's dish reigns supreme.
Many of the judges who spoke to Insider about their experience on cooking-competition shows said that judging panels can get very heated.
"Top Chef" judge Richard Blais even compared culinary deliberations to being sequestered during jury duty.
"'Top Chef' is a show that has notoriously had five- to six-hour deliberation sessions where judges have disagreed, especially if it's a big episode or near the end," Blais told Insider.
Fellow "Top Chef" alum chef Antonia Lofaso, even recalled one of her most heated debates on "Family Food Showdown," where she "duked it out" with fellow judges Clinton Kelly and Robert Irvine.
"It was to the point where we were at the judging table f---ing screaming at each other . You have me and Robert — he's an alpha male and I'm an alpha female — and, at first, I didn't even realize how aggressive we were being," Lofaso said.
She told Insider that, at one point, Clinton banged his hands on the table and said, "I will not be bullied by the two of you!"
"Robert and I just started hysterically laughing like, 'Oh my God, we broke Clinton!' So, yes, we're very passionate about who we think should go home or win," she added.
More items to explore
Jerked Spatchcock Chicken and Plantains from So Good
Spatchcock is one of my favorite words. Because obviously I’m a 12-year-old boy. But it’s also one of my favorite butchering techniques, as it enables you to cook a whole bird, any bird, evenly on a grill or in a pan. Here it’s part of a sweet and spicy Caribbean combo. (But for extra giggles, serve it with cockles.)
Spatchcock the chicken by removing the backbone and opening the chicken like a book so that it lies nearly flat. Slide out the breast cartilage.
In a shallow glass, ceramic, or other nonreactive bowl, stir together the orange juice, olive oil, garlic, and jerk spices. Flatten the chicken in the marinade so that it’s covered as completely as possible. Cover and refrigerate the chicken for at least 1 hour and up to 12 hours or overnight.
Prepare a gas or charcoal grill so that the heating elements or coals are medium-hot.
Lift the chicken from the marinade and let any excess drip back into the pan. Lightly pat the chicken with paper towels to remove excess moisture and then lay the bird on the grill, skin side down. Grill the chicken for 25 to 30 minutes, turning it several times. It’s done when the juices run clear or when an instantread thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh registers 170°F. Remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest, loosely covered with aluminum foil.
In a large skillet, heat about 1 inch of the peanut oil until hot. Cook the plantains in a single layer until browned, 3 to 4 minutes on each side, in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt while still hot.
With a heavy knife, cut the spatchcocked chicken into 8 or 10 pieces (you might want to cut the breasts in half if they are large). Transfer the chicken to a serving platter and garnish with scallions, cilantro, and fried plantains. Serve with the pepper vinegar and mango chutney on the side.
Pepper vinegar is exactly that: vinegar flavored with peppers, or to be more accurate, chiles. Many people make their own, stuffing halved or coarsely chopped fresh chiles (any that you have on hand or that you especially like) into bottles or jars and then topping them with vinegar (usually cider vin). After 3 to 4 weeks, you have a pepper sauce to reckon with. Or you can buy pepper vin online, from fancy markets, and at some farmer’s markets.
What does Season 18 look like?
The new season was shot inside a cavernous convention center. “Once we were on the set, you had to wear masks the entire time, except when the judges and contestants were in the kitchen cooking or eating,” says Colicchio.
The judges’ table, refashioned as a giant horseshoe, seats the series' most discerning palates six feet or more apart. The contestants grocery shop virtually and live in a hotel instead of sharing a house, to create physical distancing. Challenges were rethought, including the all-important ‘Restaurant Wars,’ now scaled back to “micro-restaurants” in which contestants serve a seven-course tasting menu.
The show itself “wasn’t that different,” says Colicchio, a shrug almost perceptible by phone. “We couldn't bring 200 people in to do big parties, but we worked around that, and we did other things. Restaurant Wars was a completely different Restaurant Wars. But I loved it.”
“Top Chef” fans will notice some differences. For Quickfires (the first timed challenge of every episode), “I was no longer able to go around to (contestants') stations to check out what they did,” says Lakshmi, who was brought plated dishes instead. “I gain a lot of information from looking at their station and seeing, are they a messy cook? Have they wasted a lot of food? I could try to see from far, but it wasn't the same.”
Viewers will spot judges being served by waitstaff in masks and face shields. Production also rethought guest judges, given the strict quarantine standards: This season, “Top Chef” alumni including Richard Blais, Melissa King, Brooke Williamson and Dale Talde step in as a rotating panel of judges, who “quarantined with us all the way though,” notes Lakshmi. (Massimo Bottura and Alice Waters pop in as guests, too.)
"Top Chef" is bringing back series favorites as guest judges: From left: Dale Talde, Melissa King, Gregory Gourdet, host Padma Lakshmi, Kwame Onwuachi, head judge Tom Colicchio, Richard Blais, judge Gail Simmons, Amar Santana. (Photo: Bravo, David Moir/Bravo)
6 Worst: Kevin Sbraga (Season 13)
Overall, season 13 was a pretty solid run for Top Chef. Utilizing Washington D.C.'s many attractions for some really engaging challenge prompts helped keep the season rolling along at a great pace.
Unfortunately, the finale was less than memorable. In truth, Angelo Sosa had been a much more interesting presence throughout the season than eventual winner Kevin Sbraga. Sbraga's win was another case of a forgettable contestant taking the title, and it's hard not to acknowledge that his victory was won because he had Michael Voltaggio as a sous-chef and Sosa was seriously under-the-weather.
Richard Blais Bio
Most recognizable as the winner of Bravo's Top Chef All-Stars, Richard Blais has played an influential role in hospitality for the last 15 years. He began his career, as so many young aspiring chefs do, as the "poissonnier" at McDonald's. It was here that he first dabbled in deconstruction in cuisine, serving Filet-O-Fish sandwiches sans top bun. His developing passion for food and the service industry led Richard to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. As an ambitious student, he spent time between semesters studying at the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., under renowned Chef Thomas Keller and alongside then-rising stars Grant Achatz and Eric Ziebold. Upon graduating from the CIA in 1998, Richard ventured to New York for the opportunity to work with Chef Daniel Boulud at his famous flagship, Restaurant Daniel. Richard then followed his professional compass to Roses, Spain, where he completed a brief stage at El Bulli with culinary wizard Ferran Adrià.
In 2000 Richard relocated to Atlanta to oversee a local seafood concept. His wildly creative approach to cooking and cuisine led to the establishment of Trail Blais, a forward-thinking culinary company that has consulted on, designed and operated some of Atlanta's most-popular eateries, including multiple outposts of Flip Burger Boutique and HD-1. He recently launched The Spence, a restaurant concept in midtown Atlanta, and opened Juniper & Ivy, in San Diego, where he offers a refined approach to American cuisine and showcases the seasonal and local ingredients of California.
In Richard's debut cookbook, Try This at Home: Recipes from My Head to Your Plate, he reveals a simplified approach to adventurous cooking by sharing new flavor combinations and textures to reinvent home cooks' classic dishes. Each of the 125 recipes is straightforward enough to make at home, but for those who want to try using liquid nitrogen or a sous-vide machine, Richard offers fun variations on his recipes that add another level of excitement in the kitchen. Try This at Home was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award in 2014 in the Cookbook: General Cooking category.
In December 2013 Richard appeared as the host of a brand-new television program entitled Cook Your Ass Off. The show, which aired on the HLN network, is a transformational culinary contest that focuses on the health struggles of everyday people. Talented chef contestants are pitted against each other in a three-round competition to transform daily indulgences into healthy and delicious meals. Richard has also appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Live! with Kelly and Michael, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, as well as in numerous publications, including The New York Times, InStyle and Food & Wine magazine.
Two years after Del Mar celebrity chef Richard Blais sat down with officials at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad to talk about creating a new signature restaurant together, Ember & Rye opened on Thursday.
Blais, the “Top Chef: All Stars” victor who helped launch Juniper & Ivy in Little Italy seven years ago, said he’s thrilled with how the resort executives embraced his sometimes kooky culinary ideas — like a 30-ounce Thor’s Hammer cut rib eye and an “Uncrustables"-inspired pimento cheese sandwich. But Geoff Gray, general manager of Park Hyatt Aviara, said hiring Blais was clearly a sound decision. There were 100 tables reserved for the first lunch service on Thursday, and all of the tables the restaurant can seat under the new red tier guidelines this weekend are fully booked.
Ember & Rye isn’t the only restaurant connected to a local “Top Chef” alumnus making news this week. Tonight, Brian Malarkey will reopen his flagship restaurant, Animae, in San Diego’s Marina District, following a winterlong shutdown related to stay-at-home orders. And most likely in mid-April, Claudette Zepeda will debut her signature restaurant, VAGA, at the Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas, which opened Wednesday morning in Leucadia.
Ember & Rye took over the resort’s 30-year-old Argyle Steakhouse, which overlooks the 18th hole of the resort’s golf course on the north shore of Batiquitos Lagoon. Blais said the new restaurant, designed by GrizForm Design Architects, will serve the less-laboriously prepared food he cooks at home for his wife, Jazmin, and their daughters Embry and Riley, whose names inspired Ember & Rye. The restaurant reopening is the final piece of the resort’s $50 million, 18-month renovation.
As a nod to the public’s increased desire to dine outside, Ember & Rye’s wrap-around patio has expanded outdoor seating and its focal feature is a Santa Maria-style wood-fired grill where diners can watch their steaks being cooked. The restaurant has a full bar with an inset tapas “snack bar” prep area where the pimento cheese sandwiches and other light snack items will be made to order. There are also two indoor dining rooms and a 14-seat private dining room.
The just-unveiled menu looks straightforward on first glance, but Blais said it’s packed with playful twists on traditional ideas. Some examples are his $40 caviar and pancake starter, which replaces blini with buckwheat flour Japanese-style taiyaki fish-shaped pancakes. His $26 burger is made with a blend of dry-aged Flannery beef and served with kimchi ketchup and triple-cooked French fries that Blais said take three days to prepare. Steaks range from a 10-ounce, 14-day aged strip steak for $55, to $190 for a 12-ounce A5 Japanese Wagyu sirloin skinny cut. And because Blais loves steak sauces, the menu has a whole menu of toppers, including rye whiskey gravy, blue cheese butter, pickled walnuts and his own branded Richard Blais Steaksauce, which sells for $15 a bottle.
The bar’s mainly whiskey and rye-based cocktails are also innovative, like the Smoking Ember, a $24 mezcal drink topped with a poppable bubble of citrus smoke. Bargoers who order drinks on the rocks can get everyday ice for free, or they can pay $2 to $3 more to get a custom-shaped clear “artisan ice” cube in rock, sphere, spear or other shapes.
Blais said Ember & Rye will be his local “headquarters” whenever he’s not traveling for work, like promoting the upcoming season of “Top Chef,” on which he’ll be a weekly judge, beginning April 1. Manning the kitchen on a daily basis will be executive chef William Griggs, who was the longtime chef at Argyle Steakhouse, and sous chef Brad Chance, who has worked with Blais in the past at Juniper & Ivy and Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta. As he did at Juniper & Ivy, Blais will help out in the kitchen when needed and he’ll be a regular presence in the dining room, greeting guests and happily posing with fans for photos.
Stock up on snacks and low-sugar sauces
Blais said he used to hate when people would advise him to pack nuts, raisins or a whole piece of fruit as a snack. "As a chef, that used to drive me crazy," he recalls. "But now, it's actually the food I crave."
He admits stocking up on healthy snacks sounds cliché, but he also knows it really works to help stave off cravings and prevent you from reaching for something less nutritious. Today, whenever the chef heads out, he always packs some type of dried fruit, walnuts, a banana and — something that surprises people — butter. "I know it's not something that most people have heard of but good, soft butter, kosher salt and a banana is one of my go-to snacks." The butter provides fat, which keeps him full longer.
Food Spice up your life with gochujang, ssamjang and more Korean condiments
When it comes to go-to seasonings, Blais had two easy answers.
“Hot sauce is a great store bought ingredient because there isn't sugar in it," he said. "Yellow mustard is also a favorite condiment of mine that’s compliant with the way I’ve been eating and living lately."
Blais uses both a lot in his recipes. But, the chef cautions, if you have young kids in the house, he recommends going easy on the spice.