Food Chatter: Checking in with Richard Blais

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It isn’t easy catching up with Richard Blais these days: His hectic schedule divides his time between family, appearing at charitable functions, and developing his highly anticipated restaurant, the Spence, slated to open in Midtown this spring.

This month, Blais is participating in an online cooking challenge sponsored by the Campbell Soup Co that promotes heart-healthiness. Blais has shown personal commitment to heart health through his own diet and exercise routine, having lost sixty pounds since 2002 and recently completing his first marathon in 2011. (By the way, he also turns the Big 4-0 on Sunday: Happy Birthday, Chef!)
 
Q:  Where does your drive for charitable and community involvement come from?
RB:  It comes from the fact that I now have the platform, the time, and the money to express my convictions. Now that I have kids, it is even more important to me that I work to help make our world a better place to live in.

Q:  What has been the most important factor in your growth as a culinary professional over the years?
RB:  Staying grounded. I am first and foremost a restaurant chef, and as long as I focus on that, I can survive the ups and downs of fame and failure. I want people to see me as not some media darling but a chef who has a restaurant where they can come in and see me in the kitchen. Bob Amick and I are committed to building a great restaurant with The Spence and it will reflect my new focus as a chef.
 
Q:  About the Spence, I understand that there will be ingredients of the week section on the menu called “What We Have In Our Pantry.” Can you talk about this intriguing menu feature and how it fits into your vision for The Spence?
RB: We will be featuring a number of special ingredients each week that are remarkable in quality and interest us. It’s about cooking in a fluid way and respecting the resource. I really want to start everything from that point—appreciating raw ingredients and exhausting them while they are at their peak, to maximize flavor and the guests’ experience. This will be a restaurant that you can eat at three times a week and see different dishes.
 
NEWS AND NOTES:
 
Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2012 tickets went on sale yesterday. Early bird prices will be offered until March 29. This year’s dates are May 10 to 13.
 
Sweet treats from Cakes and Ale, Restaurant Eugene and Vingenzo’s graced the 101 Best New Desserts in the Country list on Grub Street, New York Magazine’s food blog.

The inaugural Atlanta Chefs Expo takes place this Sunday February 19, from 1:30pm until 5:30pm, at the Foundry at Puritan Mill. This charity fund raising event will include menu tastings from local chefs, cooking demonstrations, and more.

Fox Bros. Bar-B-Q, Big Tex and Smith’s Olde Bar joined together to raise funds for the family of fallen officer Gail Thomas, who was killed by a drunk driver two weeks ago. The three Atlanta establishments ended up raising $5,413 for donations.  
 
Atlantic Station. On March 17 Atlantic Station and Meehan’s Public House, which recently announced plans to open a restaurant in Atlantic Station, are teaming up to throw Atlanta’s largest St. Patrick’s Day bash — ShamRock the Station. The event starts at noon: Events include Irish dancing, games, face painting, balloon art and bagpipers; children are invited to dress up in their finest green threads to show off their Irish spirit. Live music will begin at 5 p.m., and the night will be capped off with a fireworks display.

Brookhaven. Tomorrow’s News Today noted that Slacks Hoagie Shack in TOWN Brookhaven has closed.

Buckhead. The 2012 Buckhead Restaurant Week takes place starting Saturday, February 25 through Sunday, March 4. Participating restaurants will offer three-course prix fixe dinner menus for $25 or $35 per person, exclusive of beverages, tax and gratuity.

On Friday, February 17, Tavern 99’s private back room becomes the Boom Boom Room, featuring Chef Darrell Rice’s flatbread “pizzas” and DJ Romeo Cologne spinning 70s and 80s funk on Friday and Saturday nights from 11 p.m. until 2:30 a.m.

DecaturDecatur Metro first reported that Cobeh Persian Kitchen has applied for a liquor license for 123 Court Square, the address of Zucca Pizza.
 
Downtown. Look for Studio No. 7 Bar & Lounge, featuring a Jamaican-inspired menu, to open this spring at 393 Marietta Street in the former Endenu space.

Midtown. What Now Atlanta noted that Thai stalwart The Royal Orchid, in the Midtown Promenade, has closed after eighteen years.

The Celebrity Chocolate Buffet, the annual chocolate extravaganza, is back at the Four Seasons Hotel Atlanta. Every Friday in March, from 9 p.m. to midnight, Park 75 will offer all-you-can-eat decadent chocolate desserts hosted by a different local celebrity.    
 
Westside. In addition to relocating a few doors down from its original location in White Provisions, Perrine’s Wine Shop is now open on Sundays from noon until 6 p.m.
 
Question of the Week: What Atlanta chef will be among the first chefs to receive Georgia Olive Farms’ olive oil?  

PS. The answer to last week’s QOTW —What resto was named Buckhead business of the year by the Buckhead Business Association?— is Davio’s.

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