An Atlanta-based restaurateur and owner of several burger eateries, as well as someone who works actively in the kitchen himself, Blais — who won the “All-Stars” Season 8 of “Top Chef” after finishing second in Season 4 of the Bravo series — also answers to another boss now: Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
As of last week, Blais belongs to the American Chef Corps, assembled by the U.S. State Department and the James Beard Foundation to promote U.S. cuisine at home and abroad.
“I cannot complain,” Blais tells Zap2it with evident pleasure. “Being at the White House and just getting a whole different perspective on what they do on the culinary side, and then the diplomat thing … I mean, who ever would have thought a group of chefs would be asked to be diplomats?”
Fellow “Top Chef” veterans such as Mike Isabella (the “All-Stars” runner-up to Blais), Spike Mendelsohn (another of the “All-Stars”) and Bryan Voltaggio also are among the appointees. “It’s amazing,” Blais says, “and I’m definitely looking forward to participating in the program and getting more involved. I feel lucky to have the opportunities to connect with people.”
Blais admits to having been “blown away” to be at the White House last Friday (Sept. 7) for the official announcement of the initiative. “For me as a chef, to think that it’s such an important time and this administration is taking time out to acknowledge chefs and think about food, that’s pretty serious stuff. We can actually make a difference, so it’s an honor.”
Currently in training to run another New York City Marathon, Blais also is continuing his “Top Chef” adventures. He’s one of four past contestants whose personal lives come into focus in the Bravo reality series “Life After Top Chef,” premiering Wednesday, Oct. 3; and he’s just been booked for a “Top Chef”-themed Celebrity Constellation cruise that will depart from Miami in April.
“It was amazing,” Blais reflects of the “Life After Top Chef” fllming, which has been completed as far as he knows. “I joke that my four-year-old had a microphone on, but it was an experience for her, and for my whole family. To be able to share what I’ve gone through these last couple of years with them and my business partners, I enjoyed it.”