With Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars winner Richard Blais at the helm, The Spence — one of Atlanta’s top eateries— recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.
Since day one, food (as one might expect) has never been the issue at the home of the best Juicy Lucy (stuffed with cheese) burger in town. That’s because when it comes to food, Blais has mastered the type of creativity only possible from an innate food lover. And while all chefs are good to a degree, only those on the upper echelon have the je ne sais quoi for food that Blais has.
In the South, pork reigns. So, if you love flavorful, well-seasoned pork ribs of any cut, you’ll find them a dime a dozen throughout the South. As for beef ribs, there’s a different story to be told. Oftentimes the meat shows up devoid of flavor, in a puddle of some sort of sauce. Enter The Spence…
Request a table outdoors in the courtyard area and pray that it’s not too humid. Begin the evening with a craft drink such as Knife at a Fistfight. With rye, crème de violette, chocolate bitters, and Amaro Abano, it’s rich and crisp, yet light and smooth on the palate with a sweet exotic finish. While perusing the menu, salted and buttered warm rolls by Holeman & Finch are served with a coconut cream spread that is simply insatiable and obviously not the restaurant norm. Here’s what to get when you go:
On this season’s ever-changing menu, you could discover such starters as smoked beets with fresh and compressed pineapple, fresh ricotta, hazelnuts, and radish slices. When everything is tasted together, it feels like a party inside the mouth, where everyone is dancing to the same beat.
Who in the world would envision the combination of bone marrow with tuna tartare and fried quail eggs? But when placed atop grilled, buttered sourdough bread, there is just one word to describe it: INCREDIBLE! Blais even threw in some capers to cut any greasiness from the richness of marrow. It was simply brilliant!
“Top Chef” Richard Blais Opening Restaurant Inside Coastal Carlsbad Resort
“Top Chef All-Stars” winner Richard Blais, a San Diegan since he moved here to open Juniper & Ivy and launch the Crack Shack brand, is next putting his name on a project that will be part of the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort, Golf Club & Spa, which recently emerged from a $50+ million renovation. Blais is behind the Carlsbad property’s new signature restaurant still unnamed, it’s scheduled to open by March 2021.
Blais, who is set to return to the “Top Chef” universe as part of a spinoff called “Top Chef Amateurs”, which will pit home cooks against a group of the culinary competition’s favorite alumni in iconic challenges from the show’s history, is building the menu on aged steaks and fresh seafood. The chef’s take on surf and turf will carry on his dedication to regional sourcing, epitomized by a central bar that will function as an interactive culinary station serving up samplers of Carlsbad oysters and other bites highlighting local fishermen, farmers, and foragers.
Chef Richard Blais Courtesy photo
Saying he’s in the “pinch-me phase” about working with the resort and the hospitality brand, Blais says he feels honored to create a restaurants that “pays homage to the region and stands out in Southern California.”
The design of the space is described as “modern-day country club”, with native botanicals and live landscaping through the restaurant and plenty of outdoor seating with views of the Aviara Golf Club overlooking the Batiquitos Lagoon.
Blais’ restaurant will cap off a series of upgrades at Park Hyatt Aviara, which include refreshed guest rooms, two new pool experiences, and the deluxe Topgolf Swing Suite, which includes a lounge with food and drinks plus virtual games. Already opened is the Pacific Point lounge, which serves a Pacific Rim-inspired menu, and soon-to-open is Ponto Lago, an all-day restaurant with a Baja California menu and tequila bar.
For many years, celebrity chef Richard Blais has been dogged by the nickname of “the guy with the liquid nitrogen tank.”
During two seasons on Bravo’s “Top Chef” series, the Del Mar resident became well-known for using molecular gastronomy techniques like the freezing liquid in his season-winning dishes. But that was a decade ago and Blais hopes that his latest local restaurant project, Ember & Rye at the Park Hyatt Aviara, better reflects where he is as a chef today.
Slated to open in March, if public health orders allow outdoor dining by then, Ember & Rye is replacing the resort’s 30-year-old Argyle Steakhouse, which overlooks the 18th hole of the resort’s golf course on the north shore of Batiquitos Lagoon.
Blais said the new restaurant will serve the simpler, less-fussy food he cooks at home for his wife, Jazmin, and their daughters Embry and Riley, whose names inspired Ember & Rye.
Unlike Juniper & Ivy, the contemporary cuisine fine-dining restaurant that Blais helped launch seven years ago in Little Italy, Ember & Rye will have a classic, old-school approach to cooking and service that’s more relaxed in style.
The new restaurant will have vintage-inspired decor, steaks cooked on an outdoor wood-fired grill, signature dishes that don’t change from month to month, a trolley cart for tableside food prep and, possibly, a weekly prime rib night. The restaurant will also offer lunch service.
“What I do is perceived as fine dining, but I love cooking someone a hamburger and fries and cracking open a beer for them,” Blais said. “There will be salt and pepper on the table so people can season their own steaks. I don’t care if people ask for their steaks well done. I don’t care if people want a gallon of ranch dressing, and we’re not going to be making our own ketchup.”
This news may please loyal local diners who made up more than 50 percent of year-round sales at Argyle, which never declined in popularity but was due for a refresh as part of Park Hyatt’s recent $50 million renovation, said Geoff Gray, the resort’s general manager. The Argyle interior was gutted for a full interior renovation that keeps the old bones of the building but gives the space a more colorful, contemporary look.
Ember & Rye has 8,500 square feet of indoor space, plus 5,000 square feet of wraparound patio facing the lagoon and golf course, for a total of 266 seats. Argyle’s old library area is being turned into a bar area with 77 seats, indoors and out. The room’s centerpiece will be a custom-designed J-shaped bar with a built-in snack counter, where a chef will be stationed to prepare tapas, sandwiches, fresh oysters and other quick-prep food items for bar patrons. The bar will specialize in serving hard-to-find and private-label whiskeys and bourbons.
There are two large dining rooms and a private dining room that seats up to 14. On the building’s east patio, a Santa Maria-style wood grill will be used to cook beef, seafood and other entrees while diners watch.
Since Blais moved on from Juniper & Ivy a few years ago, he has been traveling more for appearances on television and at festivals and culinary events. That has meant a lot more nights spent in resort hotels, where he has picked up a new appreciation for playing golf. So when Park Hyatt reached out to him about opening a signature restaurant in the Argyle space, he was intrigued — particularly because the resort is so close to his home.
“This will be my home away from home,” he said of the restaurant. “The only place people will be able to find me in San Diego will be here.”
Since the pandemic began, Blais has spent much of the past year working from home, where he’s been developing recipes for the new restaurant in his kitchen and on his backyard grill and smoker. A TikTok video of him testing out one of his latest creations — an Ember & Rye onion ring fried in the style of a rosette doughnut — has racked up more than 2.2 million views.
Ember & Rye won’t have its own steak-aging program, but it will carry a wide selection of beef. It will also serve a selection of fresh seafood, land proteins and specialty produce from local growers, like Girl & Dug Farm in San Marcos. While he’s looking forward to creating a number of steak sauces in-house, he plans to change up the traditional steakhouse side dishes. Instead of a classic baked potato, diners can order a baked celery root, and creamed corn will be replaced by corn crème brûlée. He’s not planning to offer a chef’s table with a long, multicourse gourmet dinner for a small group of guests. But he’s open to the idea of offering a smaller prix-fixe dinner option.
Blais spent a couple months last fall in Portland, Ore., where he served as one of the main judges during filming of the 18th season of “Top Chef.” Because of the pandemic, all of the contestants, judges and production crew quarantined together in lockdown. He thinks the new season will likely air in the spring.
Blais said he’s come a long way as a chef since he won “Top Chef: All-Stars” in 2011, and he thinks the pandemic has also changed the way a lot of Americans are eating. He thinks Ember & Rye will be a good fit for what diners want as they return to restaurants this year.
“We see this contributing to the next evolution of the dining scene in North County,” Blais said. “We’re creating a vibe that it will be an easy and fun place to be.”
Rubio's Coastal Grill Partners with TV Personality Richard Blais to Launch New Street Tacos
On May 20, Rubio's Coastal Grill and James Beard-Nominated Television Personality, Restaurateur and Cookbook Author, Richard Blais, will take eaters on a culinary adventure with the launch of a new line of innovative street tacos. The adventure-inspired tacos are completely unique to the fresh Mexican-inspired eatery, known best for its award-winning Original Fish Taco and healthy grilled seafood.
The culinary partnership between Chef Blais and Rubio's was born out of Rubio's Co-Founder Ralph Rubio's desire to continue pushing culinary boundaries to bring innovative, surprising tastes to the menu. Just as the Original Fish Taco was inspired 38 years ago by a journey to Baja, collaborating with Celebrity Chef Richard Blais was equally inspired by the brand's sense of adventure.
"After a year of quarantine and travel restrictions, we are all craving new adventures and tastes. The new Rubio's x Blais Street Tacos remind us of favorite destinations, from Hawaiian-influenced Hula Hula Carnitas to the craveable Blaised & Glazed Crispy Chicken, inspired by spicy Buffalo chicken wings, to the Ancho Po-Boy Shrimp, a modern take on the New Orleans classic," says Rubio's Co-Founder Ralph Rubio. "Demonstrating the signature creativity that won him the title of Top Chef All-Stars, Celebrity Chef Blais delivers unexpected taste twists and innovation. The bold flavors and incredible textures in Rubio's new, adventure-inspired street tacos are next-level delicious."
Rubio's Rewards members will be first to try the new Rubio's x Blais Street Taco Plate, with VIP early access. For one day, on May 19, Rubio's Reward members can place an order online at Rubios.com, or through the app, and get one free Blais taco or $5 off the Rubio's x Blais Street Taco Plate.
The trio of imaginative street tacos feature Chef Blais' sophisticated and daring cooking, infused with Rubio's signature Mexican flavors. Available both to-go, or for socially distanced dining in Rubio's restaurants and outdoor patios, guests can mix and match any three street tacos, served with a side of house black beans and warm tortilla chips.
"I moved to San Diego and couldn't wait to taste Rubio's iconic fish taco," says Chef Richard Blais. "The bar was set high to craft all-new tacos that not only rivaled the Original Fish Taco in craveability, but to create flavor and texture combinations that evoked memories of great travel adventures. We had so many ideas that we ended up leaving 17 taco recipes on the cutting room floor. The final three Rubio's x Blais Street Tacos are truly the best of the best."
6 Innovative Recipes from Richard Blais
In this week&rsquos episode of Mad Genius Tips, high-tech chef Richard Blais revealed how to make dulce de leche in just one step. It&rsquos a superuseful tip (especially if you have a sweet tooth and no patience), but it&rsquos not Blais&rsquos only innovation. Here, more out-of-the-box recipes from Richard Blais.
In this week’s episode of Mad Genius Tips, high-tech chef Richard Blais revealed how to make dulce de leche in just one step. It’s a superuseful tip (especially if you have a sweet tooth and no patience), but it’s not Blais’s only innovation. Here, more out-of-the-box recipes from Richard Blais.
There are all sorts of tricks for making deep-fry batters both delicate and crisp. For these onion rings, Richard Blais uses both strategies and amplifies their effect by aerating the batter in a siphon. The results are some of the laciest, crunchiest onion rings you’ll ever taste.
In this playful vegan take on osso buco (braised veal shanks), Blais braises very large pieces of carrots in red wine and mushroom broth until tender.
Even so-called quick pickles can take several hours or overnight to marinate. But fill a siphon with pickle ingredients and charge it with pressurized gas, and the brine penetrates deep into the vegetable in a matter of minutes.
Eating vegan for a month led Blais to examine his pantry more closely. He discovered that ground porcini mushrooms add a meaty flavor to dishes like his veggie burger.
Blais makes this blue-cheese foam by loading a homemade blue-cheese dressing into a siphon and charging it with gas. Whether you’re serving the blue-cheese foam with an iceberg-lettuce wedge that is all about cool crunch, or eating it with hot and crispy chicken wings, the light and frothy texture is a wonderful contrast.
Most cakes are leavened with baking soda or powder, but here Blais uses a siphon to add air to batter. Then he squirts the batter into paper cups, microwaving each for just 45 seconds.
Celeb Chef Richard Blais Joins Rubio's For New Taco Menu
Rubio's founder Ralph Rubio and acclaimed chef Richard Blais kick off new menu of "Adventure-Inspired Street Tacos" at restaurants throughout California. (Courtesy of Rubio’s Coastal Grill)
SAN DIEGO, CA — Be still, taco-loving hearts! Just a few days to go before Rubio's unrolls its latest taco concoctions, courtesy of SoCal restaurateur, chef, cookbook author and TV celeb Richard Blais.
Prepare for such tasty delights as the Hawaiian-inspired Hula Hula Carnitas Taco, the Blaised & Glazed Crispy Chicken Taco, a Buffalo chicken twist, and the Ancho Po-Boy Shrimp Taco, featuring a modern take on classic New Orleans street food. But hang in there until Thursday, May 20 — the debut date.
For one day only, on Wednesday, May 19, Rubio's Rewards members can be first to try the new menu adds, with VIP early access. Reward members can place orders online at Rubios.com, or through the app, and get one free Blais taco or $5 off the Rubio's x Blais Street Taco Plate.
A Bravo "Top Chef," a recurring judge on such TV cooking shows as "Guy's Grocery Games," a James Beard-nominated cookbook author and one of the forces behind Juniper & Ivy in SD's Little Italy, Blais partnered with Rubio's Coastal Grill founder, Ralph Rubio, and crew for this "Adventure-Inspired Street Tacos" line-up, melding worldwide travel and street food.
"While many craved comfort foods early in the pandemic, guests are now seeking new, innovative tastes that ignite a sense of adventure," the company said. "The imaginative Rubio's x Blais Street Tacos infuse Celebrity Chef Blais' sophisticated and daring roots with Rubio's signature Mexican flavors."
Founded in 1983 in San Diego as a walk-up, food stand by then-college student Rubio, who became hooked on fish tacos after frequent trips to Mexico, the Rubio's chain now boasts a menu that still includes its Original Fish Tacos, plus grilled seafood options, along with steak and chicken served in tacos, salads, bowls and burritos.
Diners can mix and match any of the three street tacos, served with a side of black beans and tortilla chips, for to-go, delivery or on-site dining. Find your nearest Rubio's here.
Richard Blais Bio
Most recognizable as the winner of Bravo's Top Chef All-Stars, Richard Blais has played an influential role in hospitality for the last 15 years. He began his career, as so many young aspiring chefs do, as the "poissonnier" at McDonald's. It was here that he first dabbled in deconstruction in cuisine, serving Filet-O-Fish sandwiches sans top bun. His developing passion for food and the service industry led Richard to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. As an ambitious student, he spent time between semesters studying at the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., under renowned Chef Thomas Keller and alongside then-rising stars Grant Achatz and Eric Ziebold. Upon graduating from the CIA in 1998, Richard ventured to New York for the opportunity to work with Chef Daniel Boulud at his famous flagship, Restaurant Daniel. Richard then followed his professional compass to Roses, Spain, where he completed a brief stage at El Bulli with culinary wizard Ferran Adrià.
In 2000 Richard relocated to Atlanta to oversee a local seafood concept. His wildly creative approach to cooking and cuisine led to the establishment of Trail Blais, a forward-thinking culinary company that has consulted on, designed and operated some of Atlanta's most-popular eateries, including multiple outposts of Flip Burger Boutique and HD-1. He recently launched The Spence, a restaurant concept in midtown Atlanta, and opened Juniper & Ivy, in San Diego, where he offers a refined approach to American cuisine and showcases the seasonal and local ingredients of California.
In Richard's debut cookbook, Try This at Home: Recipes from My Head to Your Plate, he reveals a simplified approach to adventurous cooking by sharing new flavor combinations and textures to reinvent home cooks' classic dishes. Each of the 125 recipes is straightforward enough to make at home, but for those who want to try using liquid nitrogen or a sous-vide machine, Richard offers fun variations on his recipes that add another level of excitement in the kitchen. Try This at Home was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award in 2014 in the Cookbook: General Cooking category.
In December 2013 Richard appeared as the host of a brand-new television program entitled Cook Your Ass Off. The show, which aired on the HLN network, is a transformational culinary contest that focuses on the health struggles of everyday people. Talented chef contestants are pitted against each other in a three-round competition to transform daily indulgences into healthy and delicious meals. Richard has also appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Live! with Kelly and Michael, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, as well as in numerous publications, including The New York Times, InStyle and Food & Wine magazine.
Two years after Del Mar celebrity chef Richard Blais sat down with officials at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad to talk about creating a new signature restaurant together, Ember & Rye opened on Thursday.
Blais, the “Top Chef: All Stars” victor who helped launch Juniper & Ivy in Little Italy seven years ago, said he’s thrilled with how the resort executives embraced his sometimes kooky culinary ideas — like a 30-ounce Thor’s Hammer cut rib eye and an “Uncrustables"-inspired pimento cheese sandwich. But Geoff Gray, general manager of Park Hyatt Aviara, said hiring Blais was clearly a sound decision. There were 100 tables reserved for the first lunch service on Thursday, and all of the tables the restaurant can seat under the new red tier guidelines this weekend are fully booked.
Ember & Rye isn’t the only restaurant connected to a local “Top Chef” alumnus making news this week. Tonight, Brian Malarkey will reopen his flagship restaurant, Animae, in San Diego’s Marina District, following a winterlong shutdown related to stay-at-home orders. And most likely in mid-April, Claudette Zepeda will debut her signature restaurant, VAGA, at the Alila Marea Beach Resort Encinitas, which opened Wednesday morning in Leucadia.
Ember & Rye took over the resort’s 30-year-old Argyle Steakhouse, which overlooks the 18th hole of the resort’s golf course on the north shore of Batiquitos Lagoon. Blais said the new restaurant, designed by GrizForm Design Architects, will serve the less-laboriously prepared food he cooks at home for his wife, Jazmin, and their daughters Embry and Riley, whose names inspired Ember & Rye. The restaurant reopening is the final piece of the resort’s $50 million, 18-month renovation.
As a nod to the public’s increased desire to dine outside, Ember & Rye’s wrap-around patio has expanded outdoor seating and its focal feature is a Santa Maria-style wood-fired grill where diners can watch their steaks being cooked. The restaurant has a full bar with an inset tapas “snack bar” prep area where the pimento cheese sandwiches and other light snack items will be made to order. There are also two indoor dining rooms and a 14-seat private dining room.
The just-unveiled menu looks straightforward on first glance, but Blais said it’s packed with playful twists on traditional ideas. Some examples are his $40 caviar and pancake starter, which replaces blini with buckwheat flour Japanese-style taiyaki fish-shaped pancakes. His $26 burger is made with a blend of dry-aged Flannery beef and served with kimchi ketchup and triple-cooked French fries that Blais said take three days to prepare. Steaks range from a 10-ounce, 14-day aged strip steak for $55, to $190 for a 12-ounce A5 Japanese Wagyu sirloin skinny cut. And because Blais loves steak sauces, the menu has a whole menu of toppers, including rye whiskey gravy, blue cheese butter, pickled walnuts and his own branded Richard Blais Steaksauce, which sells for $15 a bottle.
The bar’s mainly whiskey and rye-based cocktails are also innovative, like the Smoking Ember, a $24 mezcal drink topped with a poppable bubble of citrus smoke. Bargoers who order drinks on the rocks can get everyday ice for free, or they can pay $2 to $3 more to get a custom-shaped clear “artisan ice” cube in rock, sphere, spear or other shapes.
Blais said Ember & Rye will be his local “headquarters” whenever he’s not traveling for work, like promoting the upcoming season of “Top Chef,” on which he’ll be a weekly judge, beginning April 1. Manning the kitchen on a daily basis will be executive chef William Griggs, who was the longtime chef at Argyle Steakhouse, and sous chef Brad Chance, who has worked with Blais in the past at Juniper & Ivy and Flip Burger Boutique in Atlanta. As he did at Juniper & Ivy, Blais will help out in the kitchen when needed and he’ll be a regular presence in the dining room, greeting guests and happily posing with fans for photos.
A Food Network star and owner of multiple restaurants around the country, Flay does brunch like no other. So it's not surprising that he has a killer recipe for scrambled eggs in his arsenal that includes smoked salmon, goat cheese butter, and scallions.
Crack your eggs, beat them, and pour them into your pan like you normally would. The key here is to make sure you continue to stir them the entire time as soon as they hit the pan, so they're the perfect combination of silky and fluffy.
Watch These Pro Chefs Share 7 Ways To Make The Best Guac Ever
Chef Richard Blais pairs his guac with. frozen green peas. (We, too, were confused.) But this unorthodox combo is actually pretty common during avocado shortages. It even has a cute name: mockamole.
"This is a way to get nutrition through deception. It's a nice way to sneak in some vegetables." Besides the frozen peas, Richard adds avocado, onions, jalapeño, olive oil, cumin, salt, and pepper.
Chef Anne Burrell keeps her recipe simple: avocado, red onion, tomato, lime juice, jalapeño, garlic, and cilantro. "This is a very basic jumping off point but to me it's traditional, it's the standard and I love it," Anne says.
The most important aspect of her guac is getting the lime to salt ratio perfectly balanced. "Lime and salt meet in the middle&mdashthey're two flavor opposites, think salt and vinegar potato chips, that's why we like them."
Chef Judy Joo likes her guac super smooth&mdasha rarity in the guac world!&mdashbut keeps it traditional with her ingredients. You'll find jalapeño, tomato, onions, garlic, cilantro, salt and pepper in her guac and instead of adding an additional pepper Judy adds tabasco hot sauce.
"If you don't like it spicy&mdashyou don't know what you're missing out on," Judy quips.
Judy's big takeaway? Keep your guac as fresh as possible by keeping the pits and putting them back into the guac if you have any left over. (IF you have any left over. 😏.)
Chef Marc Murphy takes a note from his good friend and chef Marcus Samuelsson and adds toasted peanuts to his guac. We know, we know. We were curious, too. Marc swears roasting and crushing peanuts adds a crunchy texture that your guac is missing.
Chef Millie Peartree remembers the first time she made guacamole&mdashit was in college and it's now her friend's most requested recipe. A key tip from Millie: Add lime to your avocado first so it doesn't brown as quickly. Like apples, avocados turn brown when exposed to air because of oxidation.
Chef Adam Richman doesn't have a guac recipe&mdashhe likes to wing it. "There's no real recipe to it, I always go by feel&mdashliterally&mdashand just kinda eyeballing it." Adam explains.
Since the ingredients in most guac recipes are similar, Adam says it's how you treat those ingredients that makes the biggest difference. Instead of mincing garlic, Adam takes the entire bulb, cuts off the top to expose the bulbs, drizzles it in olive oil, and roasts it until it's soft.
Another key variation in Adam's recipe is his mixing strategy: he uses his hands (he did say he literally feels it out!). If you want a chunky-yet-smooth texture, he claims it's the best way to secure the ratio.
Donate to Adam's charity of choice, No Kid Hungry.
Chef Andrew Zimmern has a clever trick to make guac creamy yet chunky: Use a whisk! He first mashes down the avocado, and once a chunk is stuck in the whisk, he shakes it ferociously to turn it into a smooth consistency. Like one would do in baking, he uses the folding method to keep the guac from becoming over-mixed.
"To me this is all about onion, lime, and salt." Andrew explains. "I'm a big fan of Serrano peppers. It tastes vaguely citrusy and gives pops of heat."
Another tip from the Bizarre Foods host is to only use 85 percent of a lime's juice. "The last 15 percent of the juice tends to be really bitter." Our. Mind. Is. Blown.