Richard Blais, CIA culinary arts alumni, is founder of Trail Blais.

Alumni Bio: Richard Blais ’98

Culinary Arts
Restauratuer/Founder of Trail Blais

Chef and consultant Richard Blais is best known for his appearances on Bravo’s Top Chef. After his runner-up finish on the fourth season of the show, he returned to earn the title of Top Chef All-Star. He has also appeared on Top Chef Masters, Chopped All Stars, and Iron Chef America, and has served as a judge on Guys Grocery Games, Top Chef Canada, and Rachael vs. Guy. In 2010, Blais hosted Blais Off on The Science Channel. The following year, he recorded the series Burger Lab for the YouTube Tasted channel. In 2013, Blais hosted Cook Your Ass Off on the HLN Network in which chef contestants try to transform unhealthy dishes into more nutritious versions.

Blais began his career making Filet-O-Fish sandwiches at McDonald’s. He jokes that he was the restaurant’s “poissonier.” From those humble beginnings, he went on to complete his CIA externship at the renowned French Laundry in Yountville, CA alongside, then rising-stars, Grant Achatz ’94 and Eric Ziebold ’94. After graduation, Blais accepted a manager-in-training position at the CIA teaching fish fabrication and cookery. At the same time, he worked on a sustainable farm in Mount Kisco, NY. He used that experience to land a position working for Daniel Boulud and found his professional compass after a stage at el Bulli under Ferran Adrià.

Now Blais is the chef/owner of Trail Blais, a creative culinary company that consults for, designs, and operates popular restaurants including two FLIP Burger Boutiques in Atlanta, GA, and Birmingham, AL; Juniper & Ivy in San Diego, CA; and The Crack Shack with locations in San Diego, Encinitas, Costa Mesa, Century City, and Pasadena, CA. In August 2019, The Crack Shack open in the Park MGM on the Las Vegas strip, the brand's sixth store and the first outside California. In June 2019, The Crack Shack received the Hot Concept Award from Nation's Restaurant News.

In 2018, Blais collaborated with One Point Hospitality  in St. Louis, MO, to create the opening menu of Yellowbelly. He continues to provide culinary vision for the restaurant and adds new items to the menu.

Blais has undertaken product development and endorsements for major corporations like Diageo, LG, McCormick, iSi, Quaker, and Fancy Feast cat food. He has been featured in The New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Food Arts, and Food & Wine magazine and has appeared on Good Morning America, Today, and Rachael Ray.

After his Top Chef All Stars win, Blais pushed himself to get back in shape and dropped 60 pounds with the encouragement of his then girlfriend, Jazmin. He proposed at the end of his first marathon—the 10K Peachtree Road Race—and the two are now happily married. The family, including daughters Riley and Embry, recently relocated from Atlanta to Del Mar, CA so that Blais could be closer to Juniper & Ivy and The Crack Shack.

Blais released his first cookbook, Try This at Home: Recipes from My Head to Your Plate on February 26, 2013. His second cookbook, So Good: 100 Recipes from My Kitchen to Yours, debuted on May 16, 2017. 

In 2017, Blais introduced his podcast, Starving for Attention, which can be heard on and Apple Podcasts.

His Food Network show, Hungry Games, premiered on October 20, 2014. In half-hour episodes Blais explores the psychology and science behind our food decisions through a series of fun hidden camera experiments and man-on-the-street taste tests.

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