In March we introduced you to Junper & Ivy, the Little Italy restaurant opened by Top Chef All Stars' winner Richard Blais. Recently the studly chef (c’mon, look at that smile) took the time to become our best friend participate in a little Q&A in order for us to get to know him a little bit better. Opening up about his wife, food trend predictions for 2015 and cats (of all things), the American chef, reality show contestant, restaurateur and author gave us a glimpse into his life and made us love him that much more.
Photo Credit: Tim King
JustLuxe: When did you decide you wanted to be a chef?
Richard Blais: I never really “officially” decided to become a chef. At some point, I found that I was working in a kitchen, buying cookbooks, and enjoying cooking so much that I wanted to make it a career.
JL: Who was a better cook, your mom or dad?
RB: Definitely a toss-up, but neither of my parents were really into it cooking when I was growing up!
JL: Favorite childhood dish?
RB: My favorite dish as a child was a ham sandwich with potato chips crunched in the middle of the sandwich. But I was also a big fan of linguine and white clam sauce and cheeseburgers.
Photo Courtesy of Juniper & Ivy
JL: Of all the reality shows you’ve been a part of, which judge made you laugh the most?
RB: Gail Simmons, as a judge and friend, always makes me laugh.
JL: Juniper & Ivy has been open for six months now, what has changed since its opening?
RB: The menu at Juniper & Ivy changes all the time so there is always something new to enjoy or experience. The crowds have grown surprisingly, and we find ourselves cooking for a diverse group of diners, which I love. People are driving from LA, flying from the Bay Area, walking up the block...it’s great!
JL: Is there a dish in particular that gets ordered most often?
RB: Our Carne Cruda Asada, lovingly embraced as 'meat toast' in our kitchen, has become a favorite menu item for diners.
Photo Courtesy of Juniper & Ivy
JL: Was there anything surprising about San Diego eaters that you didn’t expect?
RB: Honestly, I didn't expect San Diegans to be as hospitable as they have been!
JL: Since moving here, have you discovered any other San Diego gems yet (restaurant-wise)?
RB: I tend to lay pretty low as I am constantly running around in my job. Although I recently had an awesome meal at Pamplemousse Grille in Solana Beach, so that was a gem.
Photo Credit: Benjamin Bauer/Wikimedia Commons
JL: If you weren’t a chef, what would you be doing?
RB: Professional athlete obviously, have you seen my abs?
JL: Since running the New York City Marathon, how many have you completed since? How do you have time to get in a run now in between traveling, spending time with family and running your company and restaurants?
RB: I'll be running my third NYC marathon in November. People can help my cause by donating to Grass Roots Soccer. I've run a handful of half marathons as well. I jam in runs whenever I can. As soon as I land in a city, etc. Because I don't really have time and don't train very organized, I have to figure out how to fit runs in every chance I get.
JL: What do you listen to while running?
RB: Depends, my wife [Jazmin] is a yogi so she throws down some great playlists! She teaches in Del Mar at Bindu Yoga, go check her out!
Photo Courtesy of Richard Blais
JL: What’s your go-to comfort food?
RB: My go-tos when I am craving comfort food are spaghetti and meatballs or an ooey- gooey grilled cheese sandwich. However it will probably change by tomorrow!
JL: When you have a full day off, what does your day look like?
RB: On my days off I start off by having breakfast with my kids before I drop them off at school. Then I hit the PAC (bay club) or go for a run outside where lately I've found myself running around Torrey Pines. Then I have lunch with Jazmin before I set off for Juniper & Ivy in the late afternoon. I never really have a full day off.
JL: What was it about Jazmin (outward appearances aside) that drew you to her? What have you learned about yourself through marriage with her?
RB: Jazmin is tough, very competitive and strong willed. I'm not comparatively, so I find that very attractive. And since her enlightenment through yoga she has found amazing energy and flow, and somehow manages to not stress, so she has become a calming and cooling presence for me. She's also selfless, where I can get selfish. So yeah, she's pretty inspiring.
Photo Courtesy of Fancy Feast
JL: What is a food trend you’re ready to see go away in 2015?
RB: I would like to see the craze for bacon and pork on/in/or beside everything fade away.
What food trend(s) do you predict for 2015?
RB: In 2015 I think polished comfort food—refined, I mean—will become a trend. However I just realized that may sound like I'm saying Polish food, which is not what I'm saying. But now I could go for some stuffed cabbage.
JL: What’s next for you? What are you working on?
RB: I recently partnered with Fancy Feast for the launch of Fancy Feast Broths, a new line of broth-based cat food that features real and recognizable ingredients! Cats are loving the delicious combination of delectable broth with real seafood and veggies. As a chef I always love condiments, sauces, gravies, and broths so it’s been great to see human food trends popping up in the cat food category.
The Fancy Feast Cat and I have also become fast friends since filming a video together for Broths. Check out the video on YouTube, I’m very proud of it! It not only gave me the chance to explore a different side of myself—comedy—but it also gave my daughters (6 and 3 years old) a reason to push for us to bring a cat into our family. So I’m in the market for some short-haired exotics if you know anyone.