NEW YORK (Reuters) - American chef Richard Blais may be best known for using gimmicks and gadgets in his television appearances but in his first cookbook, “Try This At Home!”, he shows his cooking can be fun and tasty without being complicated.
The 41-year-old used often used liquid nitrogen and immersion circulators to make dishes on the U.S. cooking competition show “Top Chef All-Stars,” which he won more than two years ago.
Blais, a marathon runner and soccer fan, was born in Uniondale, New York and now lives in Atlanta where he owns The Spence and several other restaurants.
The classically trained chef spoke to Reuters about his reputation as a molecular chef, cooking for his family and being a celebrity.
Q: Is there a misconception about your cooking?
A: My food has gotten a rap that it’s really overly complicated, scientific, tech-driven. That’s not necessarily the case. I cook simple food at home. People could buy the book and cook from it, not just look at the pretty pictures. It’s not just about showcasing the food at the restaurant but also the simple food we make every day as well.
Q: How would you describe your cuisine?
A: My food is generally modern American. We take joy in interpreting classic food. The cookbook might take a beef goulash or a roast chicken or pizzas broken down in different ways. We like to take common comfortable American dishes and reinvent them or re-imagine them.
Q: Are there recipes in your book aimed at people who watched you cooking with liquid nitrogen and immersion circulators on television?
A: Those recipes are in the book as well. They are there to take a dish to the next step. We definitely want to put that style and those techniques in the book. We want to educate more people about those techniques and show them how they are applicable for the home cook.
Q: What specific points or techniques do you want readers to learn from your book?
A: Hopefully the book teaches them to cook a little better ... But the main thing is that cooking should be fun. It’s an adventure. It’s OK to make mistakes. Hopefully it opens up people’s minds to have more fun in the kitchen and be more creative.
Q: What do you cook for your family?
A: We roast chickens. We do make a lot of pasta at home. We eat simple food whether it’s a bowl of salad or a grilled cheese sandwich. Even though I‘m a chef, we eat like most American families do.
Q: Do you find it interesting that you might be better known than some of your mentors like Thomas Keller and Daniel Boulud because of television?
A: It is funny to me, for sure. These are my personal heroes and two of my personal mentors, chefs who are much more experienced, wiser and better. That’s one part that’s scary and also crazy to me.
Q: What advice do you have for aspiring chefs?
A: Make sure you love cooking and feeding people and keeping them happy. It took me 10 years before I popped up on a television show. It was 10 years of six-day work weeks and 16-hour days, doing some of the lowest level work, peeling potatoes and chopping vegetables. If you are in it just to be on a TV show or just to get some popularity because you cook, it’s probably not a right choice you made for your career.
Q: But there might be those who look to you and others and think being on television is a good shortcut to achieve success.
A: Most of us who have been on the show ‘Top Chef’ have been accomplishing things before we got the call to be on a television show. Keep sending in applications. Go for it. Most of the chefs on my team are constantly sending out applications and answering casting calls for various shows. I recommend it. But make sure you are in the industry because you love to cook. For me, tomorrow if there is no more book and no more TV, I’ll still be cooking and that’ll make me happy.
Potato chip omelet (serves 4)
12 large eggs
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives
6 cups plain kettle-cooked potato chips
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or vegetable oil
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, cream, white pepper, parsley, and chives together until combined. Fold in the potato chips until they are completely covered in the egg mixture, but try not to crush the chips too much. Let stand for 10 minutes, until the chips soften slightly.
2. Heat the butter in an over-proof 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, swirling the pan to coat the bottom completely, until very hot. Carefully pour in the egg mixture and spread it evenly in the pan, then immediately reduce the heat to low. Cook until the eggs are set and the bottom is light golden, about 15 minutes. If the bottom is golden but the eggs are still runny on the top transfer the skillet to the preheated oven and bake until the eggs are completely set, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. To serve, invert a large flat plate over the pan and flip the pan and the plate to invert the omelet onto the plate. Let stand for at least 5 minutes before cutting into wedges and serving.
Reporting by Richard Leong; Editing by Patricia Reaney and Eric Walsh