January 21, 2015
Sitting in a booth looking remarkably calm, chef Richard Blais smiles with confidence. In town for the opening of his latest Flip Burger Boutique on Wednesday afternoon, he has the presence of someone fully in control.
I asked him about what it’s like coming into new territory as a food celebrity, and he was remarkably candid.
As a chef whose national fame was built on success on the show “Top Chef” and “Top Chef: All Stars,” Blais now finds himself on the other side of the scrutiny demarcation line as a judge. But this is no flash in the frying pan for a chef who learned organization from Thomas Keller in the days before The French Laundry was THE French Laundry.
“The last thing you want to do is just drop off your name somewhere and have people be underwhelmed,” Blais says, looking more svelte these days thanks to a running routine.
“Specifically for Nashville, not knowing much about the city, I plan on being here more than if we were opening another restaurant in Atlanta.”
Known for bold flavors and creative juxtaposition of cuisines, Blais says Flip Burger is not a burger joint. “We’re a restaurant that serves great burgers.” He’s also giving his local team some creative leeway with a daily blue plate special and assorted “snacks” like cheese curds with gribiche, a French mayonnaise-style sauce finished with greens.
You’ll also find Blais’ myriad take on burgers as well as his LN2 milkshakes, which employ the whiz-bang of liquid nitrogen to create concoctions made with Krispy Kreme doughnuts and Nutella.
“This for us is a big moment, being in Nashville as a brand, because it’s a hip city that knows what it knows, and it’s got a vibe to it. If we’re not successful in Nashville, it would be hard for us to go to any of the other big cities because there is celebrity here, people know that there’s culture here, food seems great, music is great. We’re supposed to be a hip place, so if we don’t make it here that’s going to be a difficult thing for us.”
Read more about my conversation in next Wednesday’s Taste section.
Reach Jim Myers at 615-259-8367 and on Twitter @ReadJimMyers