Richard Blais

Welcome back to Happy Half Hour! This week we chatted with chef Richard Blais, whom you may recognize as both a contestant and a judge on Top Chef, and as a judge on Guy’s Grocery Games and MasterChef. Richard came by to talk about his newest restaurant, Ember & Rye, a steak house opening soon at the Park Hyatt Aviara Resort in Carlsbad. 

Richard got his start working at The French Laundry, Chez Panisse, and El Bulli, then opened several of his own restaurants in Atlanta. After moving to San Diego, he opened Juniper and Ivy in 2014 and followed that with The Crack Shack in Little Italy. At the time of our recording, Richard was staying at the Aviara, working out the last few details for Ember & Rye to open.

Over the past year, Richard says he’s taken advantage of the new circumstances to give his fans a more authentic virtual experience. One project he developed was to move his “stand-up cooking” performances, which he used to spend the bulk of his time traveling to do live, into the intimate setting of his backyard. (Unfortunately, the backyard show is currently on hiatus after Richard received a cease and desist order. Listen to find out what happened!)

Ember & Rye is set to open on March 18, as long as the public health orders don’t change. Richard describes this new restaurant as a “steak house of sorts,” which will serve the kind of food that he would want to eat every day. He says a restaurant’s true identity isn’t formed until 90 days after opening, so he’s looking forward to seeing what growth will happen after the launch. He’d been considering opening a steak house for a while, and spending more time at home, burning wood and grilling food in his backyard, helped him fine-tune the concept: Namely, backyard-style grilling with lots of different grills (Santa Maria style), techniques, and tools to cook dry-aged meat and fresh seafood. 

But why put in all the work to open another restaurant, especially now? For Richard, part of it is a matter of remembering what got him where he is today. He just loves restaurants, great food, and making people happy. He talked about his plan to incorporate golf-inspired art and decor from the ’60s and ’70s at Ember & Rye, as well as classic dishes from that era, like prime rib. He’ll be bringing back old cooking techniques and tools, like a flambadou used to heat up and drip melted fat over the meat, alongside his more well-known trademarks, like liquid nitrogen. 

    In Hot Plates, San Diego’s favorite fishmonger has his own TV show! Tommy Gomes, who was at Catalina Offshore for 15 years, is starring in a new docuseries called The Fishmonger on the Outdoor Channel premiering March 1. Vista will get a new beer hall next month called Co-Lab, which will feature booths from different breweries, food vendors, and outdoor seating. California state senator Bill Dodd introduced SB 389, which would legalize takeout cocktails permanently if it passes.

In Two People for Takeout / Two People for $50, Richard recommended Alborz, a Persian restaurant in Del Mar. He enjoys the skewered meats, koobideh (kebab made from ground beef), and saffron rice, and his favorite dish is the fesenjon (pomegranate and walnut stew). Troy’s pick was Awash Ethiopian Restaurant in North Park for tibs, a spicy beef tenderloin stew, and the vegetarian sides that come with injera flatbread. Marie’s pick was the Lebanese restaurant Amardeen in UTC for their beef and lamb shawarma, lentil soup, and homemade baklava. David recommended the pizza at The Friendly, which has two locations in North Park.

Thank you for listening! As always, we want to hear from our listeners. Do you have a question for Troy? Need a recommendation for takeout? Is there a guest you want us to book on the show? Let us know! You can call us at 619-744-0535 and leave a voicemail, or if you’re too shy, you can email us at happyhalfhour@sdmag.com. See you next week!

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