Sunday, September 28, 2008


So this week has been an absolute crush. I’ve been in three cities. I’ve been in a car, a train, a plane, and a boat. 7 demonstrations in 7 days. I am exhausted as I type this.

The week started in Tampa, where we were met by a serious group of fans. Most notably, a young culinary student, Kassandra, who was so eager to learn, that she came over to Orlando later in the week to help with our demo at Universal City Walk.

So, after spending some much appreciated family time in TB, ( it was Riley’s first plane trip), I headed over to Orlando for a few more classes. I stayed at Portofino, a hotel at Universal that was modeled after an italian port city. That was neat, until I facebooked, "in Italy", and felt bad as many of my friends were all excited for me. Not that Italy...
Ate at a few restaurants while in Florida.

Sideberns, Tampa. Really progressive menu and got a neat tour from Asbel.

restauarntBT, Tampa. Great Asian / French food. Riley's first fine dining experience, very cool

Emerils, Orlando. On the ol' corporate dollar, I ordered the biggest steak they had. Someone please buy new plates at Emerils. When china has so many scratches, that it looks grey, it’s time to reinvest...

Highlight of Orlando, having a small arsenal of stages to help. We are starting to roll deep!

Than, in a slight mix-up, I needed to drive back from Orlando to Tampa at night, and catch a 530 AM flight to 
Atlanta to shoot an episode of Movie and a Makeover.

It is set to air the day after Thanksgiving. The holiday themed affair was awesome. I really enjoyed playing within the theme and want you to check it out if you can on that Friday.

And scripted television... a very good experience for me. It’s a different game and it’s the balancing of improv that makes it great. This was an awesome run for me and I’m hoping Turner, a local giant, invites me to do a bit more work. I was feeling it.

And without break, I was at it again for two separate days of shows in Atlanta, the last at Piedmont Park, where I received a much warmer welcome than I anticipated.

I did have to skip a dinner at Restaurant Eugene where I was supposed to meet the Real Housewives of Atlanta.  I will be blogging the show so it would have been interesting to meet them off camera. 

Tomorrow, finishing the week, I am at the Atlanta Home show at Cobb Galleria, before getting on a plane to LA for some private functions.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Prep work

Preparation is everything. I think that was the motto of the Culinary Institute of America when I attended it. And in the kitchen, it’s absolute fact. A chef that is organized and well prepared, sets himself up for success. All too often, especially on the media circuit, inspiration seminar, product development, cooking class, public appearance set that I’m on currently it’s difficult to achieve.

You’re traveling from state to state, kitchen to kitchen, often working with new chefs, and people of varying degrees of both skill, passion, and drive. It’s tough, but I’m getting good. I’ve learned to get it all in writing, send recipes way in advance, be specific, overly specific, and like the famous line from Mick Jagger, “ you don’t always get what you want, but if you ask, you may get what you need.”

So, doing an event with 4 different companies involved can be tricky or in this case, very easy.

Bravo, the CIA, and the folks at Astor center know how to communicate. Everything I needed was there, everyone was hospitable, and the preparation showed in the results. It was a great class, and once again, the ultimate goal of any business, to procure more business, was achieved. Trail Blais will be heading back to Astor. Trail Blais will be appearing in Hyde Park. And as we wait to hear more concrete info, we will be doing more Bravo related work.

I know I haven’t been covering much about the food we have been producing, but at Astor we were asked to do 3 courses somewhat inspired from Top Chef.

A new Manhattan. a cocktail, we used Michter’s Rye whiskey ( go get some now ! ) smoked some cherries, and whipped up some bliss maple to create a pretty tasty molecular mixology version of my favorite drink.

Raw hamachi with fried chicken and smoked mayonnaise.
A dish I whipped up for Eli ( ENO restaurant ) one night. It’s just the ultimate, “you stuck your sashimi in my fried chicken” sort of thing. And the smoked mayo will soon be packaged and offered on our web site!

Tofu, with beef fat and green curry. This was the first time I revisited this dish and I’m very glad I did. Kevin, from CIA, did such a tight job on mincing the beef fat that we were left with some nice crispies of the fat that added a needed texture to the dish

Dry ice......... cream, with bacon flavor.

We couldn’t source nitrogen, and so I subbed some dry ice and demonstrated, quite honestly, a more applicable way to make creative, quick ice cream at home.

The crowd was awesome, especially a young inspired chef I met named Sam. I am looking forward to working with Sam in the future.

And, the most inspirational moment of the event for me was working with the CIA students. These guys made me very proud to be an Alum. Massive props to Max, Kevin, Patrick, and James. These guys will be my go to help in the NY area from now on...

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Dark Side

Trail Blais was at MOSH in Jacksonville Florida on Friday night. We served as the special guest and caterer and I put on 3 demonstrations inside of their science theater.

This trip was full of behind the scenes drama. It actually would have been the perfect pilot for “Trail Blais” the TV show.

Hypothetically speaking….
Would you watch a show where a rising celebrity chef ( sorry, what else do I call it ) and his team of diverse culinary talent, travel to a Science museum, and work alongside a dysfunctional local caterer. Shot in two drastically different backdrops; a beautiful science and history museum and a 30 year old “catering facility” that I can best describe as a pirate ship, a sinking pirate ship. BTW, the pirates themselves were helpful, nice guys and in the spirit of international football, we traded our blue aprons for their eye patches.

Watch the drama unfold between the guest chef and the local restaurateur obnoxiously protecting his turf. Witness the palpable stress of the pretty PR rep trying to be the glue holding it all together.

Do you want to know what the oldest stock pot in the world looks like ?

Do you enjoy karaoke ?

Have an interest in molecular gastronomy ?

Feel at home with an escort of storm troopers ? (I do, in fact. Look for this. I may just start traveling with Vader’s 501st)

Then, perhaps you would have enjoyed this trip… as a television episode.

Of course, it wasn’t.

The event was a smashing success. MOSH got a great turn out. The guests were more than awesome and once again I feel like I made a few hundred new friends.

In fact, we have been invited back for next year, and I can guarantee it will be a killer show. Bigger, better and stronger.

Culinarily, it was a trip that reminded me of how important some basic things are in our kitchen. Deli containers, green tape (shit, any color tape) vacuum bags, 9 pans (hell, any pans ) and most importantly.... enthusiastic help. All of which were in demand at some point during the weekend.

The presentation, with a science lab as our stage ( how freaking cool is that ), was a good push. This was the first time where we demonstrated a wide array of techniques.

Too many people to thank individually, but thanks to all.

Looking forward to rolling deep at MOSH next year with an army of culinary students… and storm troopers.

Off to NYC, as soon as I clean up the glass from my broken car window. Who breaks into a car for sneakers?

File under... Obvious

I’m not a professional writer.

This blog is a true journal and diary ( I carry a murse, it’s a diary )

I feel likes it’s important to note, that my personal feelings are being expressed here, without agenda, except to document my work and travels.

I don’t edit, obviously. I spell check, read it once, and post. I think it’s the only way for it to be, hold on....... real.

I’m keepin it real, son .( glaring mid-nineties hip hop reference)

Monday, September 8, 2008

HOME Free!

So, I have resigned my position at Home as of yesterday. It certainly won’t come as a surprise to many, but for many good reasons I just can’t continue my position there.

As an artist, it’s all about creative control. It’s all that matters (at least when it can afford to be all that matters), and the constant struggle between an owner’s view, and a chef’s perspective, has strained me to the point of re-focusing my efforts elsewhere.

It’s time to work for myself, and it’s a liberating feeling.

I have my current commitments to Bravo/NBC, my creative consulting company Trail Blais and my young family to keep me more than busy.

What made my decision very easy were a few uncomfortable meetings, where it was obvious that ownership didn’t value what I brought to the table and were insistent on a very archaic outlook of my position. HOME valued my physical time only, of which at times was limited because of prior commitments. When entering into this partnership, I laid out my full slate of commitments and everything was checked off on and approved. But “in theory” and “in practice” are two different things, I guess.

For the record, HOME tallied a four star review, and drove business up from its previous concept by 67 %. It was the first time I achieved those 2 things together. It was the first 4 star restaurant in that company.... and most likely, no, certainly, the last...

Home has been full every night with not only people searching out a good meal, but people who were coming for me, whether personally, or creatively, it was pretty apparent that this was a successful concept. It was a chef’s restaurant, a rarity in our city. But it never was the chef’s restaurant, and from the beginning, my most loyal fans knew this.

For the first time, it is clear to me, that I am in the position where the guests’ threshold of creativity has reached a parallel with a successful business model. Meaning I think Atlanta is ready for a restaurant that stretches. I know that if it is going to happen in Atlanta, it’s going to happen soon...

I hope Home continues with my team in place, as they have been running the restaurant anyway with much of my time devoted to travel. But it was a very simple choice, and for the first time, a decision where money wasn’t an issue.

I couldn’t be more pleased and excited. I have FLIP ahead, a project where I am the creative vision, I am booked for 3 months out for appearances, and most importantly, can now take some serious time hanging out with Baby Riley and my wife, who has been working her cream puffs off.

As well, there is an interesting opportunity brewing that could mean true artistic freedom.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

11 courses, 3 hours, 1331 plates...

Our guest dinner with Sean Brock could have been a disaster. That's a lot of plates, a lot of service and a lot of room for error. Of course, I am never happy with my overall performance (See: "I choked..."), and there were a few things I wish I could change in retrospect. But, we had fun and the guests seem to genuinely enjoy the experience.

McCrady's run by Sean Brock is one of the most creative restaurants in the country. If you haven't heard of it, or Chef Brock, well, you will soon. Check out his blog at

I have to give a huge shout out, yes I said shout out, to all that helped with the event. We brought 3 caravans of chefs with us and also had a good amount of stage support from the Charleston area.

Justin, Billy, Enrika, Jared, Jason and Andrea all came from Atlanta, on their own time, to work 3 monster days in the kitchen. When I see commitment and dedication like that, it
reminds me what it is all about.

Eli, Daniel, Ben and Jeremy came as well. These are guys I've worked with in the past, but have no obligation to me, and again, I am so grateful and humbled by the gesture. We really wouldn't have been able to pull it off without their support.

The crowd was pumped and we had a blast. I really enjoyed playing MC and communicating our vision and inspiration for each dish. This is something I'd like to continue and it even inspired some great ideas.... that I'm not quite ready to share!

I also feel like I have found my favorite city in the South. Charleston has that European feel, with great architecture, and a friendly vibe I haven't seen anywhere else. I truly feel like I made a few hundred new friends last weekend.

The best part of the trip, and I knew it would come from the outset, was the spark I got from working with Sean. As I build what everyone tells me is a "brand" (?!?), an event like this helps me tighten my grasp on our core values. I'm a decent public speaker. We are embarking on new television contracts. We are really doing a ton of "celebrity" chef work, but at the end of the day... I'm a chef that just loves sharing my passion with people, feeding them and making dining exciting. Sean is the same way. The guy is just about as humble and hospitable as you will ever meet... especially amongst chefs!

There was a moment at the end of the meal, you know the part where everyone involved gets acknowledged, when Sean spoke about his first experience eating my food he said he remembered how brave I was.

Brave isn't a word that gets tossed around for chefs. His words have impacted me greatly.

We also committed to doing another dinner at McCrady's in March around the same time as the Food & Wine fest! Reserve now!!