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Richard is My Hero
Eli Kirshtein shares his love for Richard Blais.
I know that my background with Richard is well-known, I also know that in the past he has written to tell a bit about me, show a different light on me even. I feel like now is a good opportunity to explain why, in my life Richard is always my hero.
When I first met Richard I was 17 years old, I needed a job. I had just gotten a local cookbook, all about chefs in Atlanta. It gave a short bio on some forty some-odd chefs and a couple of recipes from each. I was digging through the book; really looking for someone I was excited to take my resume, as short as it was, to. Like a beacon of light I saw three words that sprung from the page at me, The French Laundry. I knew very little about gastronomy at the time but I knew what that was, Richard had worked there for a stint and I knew I had to work for him.
When I interviewed with him, he was a guy of average height, above average weight (yes, believe it or not, Richard Blais used to be a little pudgy) and was terribly socially awkward. I remember coming into dinner a couple days before I started there with my parents and him being unable to even make eye contact with them. But he hired me.
That was a restaurant called Fishbone. I worked there until I had to go to off to culinary school. I always kept in touch with Richard, when I would go do a stage in NYC (a short culinary internship) I would call and ask for advice, which he always seemed to be able to give in the best of ways.
At that point he really became my mentor. He was able to guide me in all of best ways. He taught me who chefs were, about the importance of cooking as a craft, really taught me how to care about food.
There was a period when Richard jumped around to several restaurants in the Atlanta area, with no real strong hold anywhere. He eventually landed at a place called One. I myself came on board there to work for him, post culinary school. I always felt like during that time Richard really came into his own. He had gotten engaged to Jazmin, whom I would credit for getting him in physical shape and helping him come out of his social bubble. He also got rave reviews, and he competed on Iron Chef. He had become a name to know with chefs nationwide.After two years, there was a run through Miami, then back to Atlanta. After a little juggling around, Richard went on Top Chef. He became a name to know about food, period. He borderline became a household name. He started to become very successful, hitting many life goals for himself. The one thing he left on the table was the win.
Often times when I do a Top Chef event, there are extensive Q&A sessions. One question that is almost always asked is, “Who should have won that didn’t”? Of course I would say Richard, but after doing several events with other previous Top Chefers, they all pretty much unanimously said the same.
I think this was a big longing in his heart he wanted filled. Now this may read as a total ego-stroking diatribe, and one that I wouldn’t ever feel like I could write completely or well enough. But the reality is that I love the guy. He is one of the best souls that I know and he really deserves this. I don’t discredit anyone else’s feeling that they needed to win this also, but this time it is his redemption song.
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