The untold truth of Richard Blais

Richard Blais is a familiar face for viewers of Top Chef. As a contestant on season 4, his penchant for freezing ingredients with liquid nitrogen fascinated fans. Though he was the runner-up of that season, he later returned to Top Chef: All-Stars in 2011 and took home the winning title. Blais has since become a well-known figure in the cooking world, appearing as a competitor on shows such as Top Chef Masters, Chopped All-Stars, and Iron Chef America, and as a judge on Guy's Grocery Games, Top Chef Canada, and Rachael vs. Guy, according to the Culinary Institute of America. The chef graduated from this top culinary school, based in Hyde Park, N.Y., but that's not where he first started learning about the kitchen.

Blais, a native of Uniondale, N.Y., actually began his career working at McDonald's as a teenager. He made Filet-O-Fish sandwiches (the chef has joked that back then, he was the restaurant's "poissonnier") and it was the camaraderie among his fellow kitchen staff that made him want to cook professionally (via Hollywood Reporter and the CIA). Blais went on to study at the CIA and completed his externship at The French Laundry, Thomas Keller's acclaimed restaurant in Yountville, Calif., alongside other now-notable chefs and CIA alumni Grant Achatz and Eric Ziebold.

How Richard Blais' career as a chef affected him

After he graduated, Blais taught fish fabrication and cookery at the CIA as a manager-in-training while working on a sustainable farm in Mount Kisco, N.Y. That experience landed him a job under Daniel Boulud. The chef later staged at El Bulli in Spain under Ferran Adrià, a chapter of his life where he found his "professional compass."

But working in the restaurant industry affected Blais' health. The lifestyle of a chef — working 16- to 17-hour shifts, tasting food all the time, cooking, talking about food, being on your feet all day but not getting actual exercise, and partaking in the social aspects of the industry such as drinking beer after a long, tiring shift — took its toll on Blais, who became 60 pounds overweight in a matter of months. He realized he needed to turn his life around when he could no longer recognize himself in the mirror. But the biggest motivator he had to lose weight was love (via CNN).

How Richard Blais overcame his weight gain

When Blais describes his past struggle with his weight, he credits his weight loss to "a combination of a really joyous thing and some massive depression." While the chef had lost a restaurant, he also met Jazmin, the love of his life. Jazmin, a competitive runner and former personal trainer, helped Blais transition into a healthier lifestyle. The two started running together. "I had to get this pretty girl," Blais told CNN. "I was this chubby guy, and I literally had to run after this girl." 

After winning Top Chef: All Stars, Blais got back in shape through a vegan diet and regular exercise and lost 60 pounds. He proposed to then-girlfriend Jazmin at the end of his first marathon and the two tied the knot. Today, they live with their two daughters Riley and Embry in Del Mar, Calif., so Blais can be closer to his California-based concepts Juniper & Ivy and The Crack Shack. Blais and his wife run Trail Blais, a culinary consulting company, and co-host the podcast Starving for Attention. The chef also recently launched Food Court, a new podcast where he presides over guests, who are comedians, writers, or chefs, who debate opposing foodie viewpoints (such as bacon vs. sausage and cake vs. pie).

Other projects Richard Blais has been involved in

Blais' career has flourished beyond TV, restaurants, and podcasts. The chef has written two cookbooks: Try This at Home: Recipes from My Head to Your Plate in 2013 and So Good: 100 Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours in 2017. He ventured into the YouTube world with the Burger Lab series he recorded for the Tasted channel in 2013. He has done product development and endorsements for major brands such as LG, McCormick, Quaker, Diageo, and even cat food line Fancy Feast (via the CIA).

Blais got the movie treatment in 2016 when he appeared as a comedic version of himself during a cameo on Why Him? starring James Franco and Bryan Cranston. The role poked fun at his love for molecular gastronomy, with his character serving ridiculous culinary creations that might not be all that far-fetched, considering the chef's creativity in the kitchen. (You can view a clip of Blais' cameo on the film's Facebook page.)

Because he has his hands on a lot of different projects, Blais told Fatherly that the toughest part of his world is "trying to be a good husband and dad and trying to balance everything." But he always makes time for his family and cooks with them at home when he can.