At home with Top Chef Richard Blais

Chef Richard Blais, of Top Chef fame, cooking at his home in Del Mar, California. (Eduardo Contreras / Union-Tribune)
(Eduardo Contreras / San Diego Union-Tribune)

A Top Chef’s home kitchen, a master mixologist’s home bar, a stylist-to-the-stars’ home closet, a celebrated interior designer’s home décor and a prominent architect’s, well, home, beg the question - how do professional San Diegans bring their work home? Open their doors and see.

In the kitchen of his 2,500-square-foot Del Mar beach cottage-chic home, Richard Blais has all the toys worthy of a “Top Chef All-Stars” winner and buzz-maker-in-chief of the expanding Juniper & Ivy/Crack Shack restaurant empire.

He’s got the massive Viking range, a SodaStream carbonation machine, a Vitamix blender, a Robot Coupe food prepper and a KitchenAid mixer.

But he and wife Jazmin are also parents, so there are some real toys around, too. And a couple of stools that allow daughters Riley, 8, and Embry, 6, to stand counter-height while dad whips up everything from a one-pot Taco Tuesday dinner to his trademark molecular mad-scientist magic.

Besides his incredibly adorable kids, here are some other essentials in Blais’ kitchen:

Going to pot

As a 20-something (and 75-pounds-heavier) chef, Blais made a pilgrimage to E. Dehillerin, the legendary Parisian cookware shop. With his set of 10 new copper pots, he was forced to walk 10 miles because of a transit strike. “There I was, a sweaty, pale, chubby chef with all these pots,” he says.

E. Dehillerin copper pots, from around $30, E. Dehillerin,

The blue, period

The one thing the Blais can’t live without is his Marseille-blue cast iron enamel Le Creuset bouillabaisse pot he got as a gift from Michelin superstar chef Eric Ripert. “It’s beat up, it’s cracked and broken,” he says. “I love it.”

Le Creuset soup pot in Marseille blue, from $140, Le Creuset,

One for the books

Blais’ wife drags him to rummage sales and consignment shops, where he always finds something to buy - like a giant pepper grinder he got for $1 at the Aspen Salvation Army store. “And this - it’s a vintage meat grinder and a good bookend,” he says.

Freeze frame

No molecular gastronomist worth his agar-agar (vegetable protein derived from algae) would be without liquid nitrogen - Blais has a 10-liter tank. To his daughters’ delight, he can instantly transform vanilla, eggs, milk and sugar into a smoke-filled bowl of ice cream. “When Riley was 1 or 2, she put her hand in the liquid nitrogen, so that was a molecular gastronomy dad fail,” he says.

10-liter liquid nitrogen tanks, from about $300, Amazon,

Bet ya didn’t know

‘Doing the California thing’

The staples in Blais’ kitchen sound straight from a SoCal health food store: beans, brown rice, kale, swiss chard, poblano peppers, tomatillos and quinoa. But he hasn’t forgotten his Empire State roots, regularly cooking “New York Italian nostalgia food,” like spaghetti and meatballs and chicken parmigiana.

‘I wish I had a more romantic story’

Anyone who dubs his signature restaurant a “Left Coast Cookery,” needs a proper molcajete - or mortar and pestle. The gray, rough-hewn granite version on Blais’ counter looks like it should have a serious cheffy saga to it. “Sorry, we got it at the Solana Beach Marshalls.”

‘Delicious, understandable and sort of quirky’

Blais, is currently developing a line of condiments sauces and salad dressings like the prototype of a white barbecue sauce he pulled from the fridge (it’s made with mayo, vinegar and chilies). Likely to be a hit? the Sriracha and ranch combo, or the “Srirancha.”

‘So Good’

Want to bring some Blais into your own kitchen? His second cookbook, “So Good: 100 Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours,” will be released on May 16. The recipe for meatballs - the girls’ favorite - is included, as is the fried pickle juice-marinated chicken, which is sure to send Crack Shack addicts on a bender.


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