Food & Drink » Knife's Edge

Richard Blais takes on CL as his newest project



Almost 10 years ago, I remember anxiously awaiting the latest copy of Creative Loafing, with what was to be my first mention in an Atlanta paper. OK, any paper, unless you count my hometown local that had written about how fast I got pinned as a high school wrestler. It would be just a quick mention in CL. The tiniest blurb, but the type of thing that a young chef dreams of. I remember driving to Fellini's to see if the print edition had been released. After four visits and scouring the distributing cases up and down Peachtree Street with no luck, I finally went back to my apartment.

After midnight, I woke up and went out again. It was easy to bounce up and go because I slept with my clothes on, with my television playing, stuck on the Food Network, and with whatever celebrity chef's book du jour sprawled over my chest.

I never got that mention. After all the waiting and anxiety, the blurb just mentioned the name of the restaurant, the owners and, of course, the name of the previous chef. Oh well.

Later that night I headed into work. Very early. Bakers' hours. I prepared the restaurant for lunch service and set everything up. All the stations. Every sauce strained twice, and every nine pan filled. The grill on. The protein portioned. The menu printed. The side towels neatly folded and anally arranged on every cook's cutting board. The dishes washed. Breakfast made for the staff. Coffee brewed.

The sun hadn't even come up yet.

It was a time I remember well. And it's in that spirit, the one of the hard-working young chef, that I embark on this new adventure, nearly 10 years later.

Today, of course, I don't get to any of my projects before sunrise. I've given away almost all of my cookbooks, seriously. Google alerts make sure that every tiny blurb about any Richard Blais (and there are a lot, as Blais is a common name in Montreal) gets to me instantly. And I'll taste the sauces but don't usually make them. It's a different life. Not necessarily any easier, but different.

Truth is, I have Atlanta to thank for this different life. This city, and the people who'll be reading this paper. In thanks, I hope to over time give you some insight into the world of a chef. I don't want to write about the molecular deconstruction of a carrot at 85 degrees Celsius. Boring. And I don't want to discuss walk-in hookups, or why you should eat seafood on Tuesdays. Fun, but not me. Instead, I might write about what a restaurant and chef go through in the days preceding a major review. Why kitchens and locker rooms are quite similar. Or why the ultimate struggle for any chef is the balance of quality vs. profit. I'll attempt to give you my insight to those questions and answer yours.

I'll field as many questions as I can. I'll take some harsh critiques from real people behind ridiculous screen names. And hopefully add a dash of something, although I'm not sure what, to an already formidable team.

The rules are simple. I won't be writing about any of my projects in Atlanta. My boss, my "chef," my editor, the food critic, who I've sworn profanity at from the comfort of my own kitchens at times, won't have it. And neither will I.

It's quite funny, actually. How many text messages have I sent outlining my theory that bloggers aren't really "writers"? And now with all the intended irony, I'm a "writer."

But I know for certain this time that I'll be seeing my name in the paper. Unless this is some sort of culinary "Punk'd" (it has crossed my mind).

Maybe I'll be able to sleep this time. With an early bedtime, and from my family home in Candler Park, not my bachelor's flat in Peachtree Battle.

But, this is very much like 10 years ago. I'm still anxious to see my name in Creative Loafing ...

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