Next Level Chef's Richard Blais Details His Background At McDonald's - Exclusive

Some successful chefs are born to the trade, reared by a parent (or even two) who shared their own love for and prowess at cooking with their kids starting right in childhood. Think Tilly Ramsay, daughter to world-renowned chef Gordon Ramsay and now a blossoming chef (and social media darling) in her own right. Think Cedric Vongerichten, restauranteur and chef who just happens to be the son of Jean-Georges Vongerichten, a famed French chef who has opened restaurants on most of the world's continents. And on it goes.

Then, in other cases, we find estimable chefs who came to the culinary world entirely of their own volition. And in the case of chef Richard Blais, we find a chef whose route to success in kitchens, writing cookbooks, and working on TV with luminaries of the food world started in a most unlikely place: a fast food kitchen.

Asked during a recent exclusive interview with Mashed where he got his start in the food world, Blais was a blend of coy and unabashed in his answer. "I [started] cooking at a young age," he told us. "So my first professional job was at a tiny little restaurant that I don't know if many people have heard of, but in my day they did burgers and shakes. It was McDonald's. McDonald's was my first professional job. So at 14 years old, I was the poissonier at McDonald's, which is a very prestigious position at a hamburger restaurant. Poissonier means 'fish cook' in French. So a very important position. And the first batch of Filet-o-Fish sandwiches that I served when I was 14, I forgot to put the top buns on them. So I was being avant garde well before I knew that that was my actual calling in the kitchen. But it was pretty chaotic — I think, a good introduction to the restaurant business."

Richard Blais dishes on his mom's cooking

Chef Richard Blais moved beyond his role as a fish sandwich cook at McDonald's, finding motivation to stay in the food world largely from within. In retrospect, Blais had a bit of culinary inspiration in his youth, but there was little care paid to cooking in his everyday home life. "I came of age in the moment where convenience food really took off and fast food was a big thing," he said. "So looking back, those were really, really big influences. But at the same time, my mom, who was not a great cook, was cooking from cans in the microwave and the freezer. And I bring a lot of that into my food as well. Sometimes with the technology, or even just presentation, where I'm always trying to sort of honor the fact that a lot of chefs may have grown up on their parents' farm, or whatever their story is, but not me."

Who were his few early sources of inspiration in the kitchen? Quite possibly the same as yours: the people a generation ahead of your own folks. "When I was in the moment, I didn't really appreciate it, but both of my grandmothers [inspired me]," he revealed. "I think a lot of cooks always sort of have that family story, and there's always someone in their family that just cooks delicious, soulful food. When I was young I didn't appreciate it as much, but both of my grandmothers — one was very French, and really almost Julia Child-esque, and for the holidays would make her own Jell-O, but it wasn't clear so I didn't like it as a kid. It was all these sort of things that I didn't appreciate at the time. Making her own stocks, and sauces, and gravies."

Check out Richard Blais on Next Level Chef on FOX.