For a bit of brand extension and celebrity celebration, Bravo is putting 15-20 of its chef-testants to work — two at a time — in a traveling kitchen that will visit 19 cities by the end of September. Day One of the two-day L.A. stop featured last season’s runner-up Richard Blais, who has all the hallmarks of a celeb chef, and Season Three’s fourth place finisher, Brian Malarkey, who does good job deferring to Blaise and his magnetism.
The gig for these chefs, last season’s Antonia Lofaso replaced Malarkey on Saturday at City Walk, is to prepare three courses in a little over half an hour in a trailer that holds about three dozen people, which seemed split between home chefs, eaters and the celebrity obsessed. The duo’s kitchen activities are beamed on a bigscreen in an outdoor area that accommodates about 300 people.
At their fourth demonstration of the day, which Richard and Brian acknowledged as their best, the chefs demonstrated that great looking “Top Chef” dishes are quite delicious as well. Blais used his immersion circulator to slowly cook pork belly for 48 hours, after which he spiced and seared the pieces before topping them with an Asian-flavored watermelon salad; Malarkey went with Cajun-spiced shrimp and grape tomatoes over a cilantro-avocado sauce. The two partnered on peach ice cream made with the ingredient that all of the show’s fans know Blais loves, liquid nitrogen. And yes the word “acidity” was used often.
Personable and willing to engage in any subject — science, chefs’ personalities, the immersion circulator as the next “must-have” kitchen gadget — while sautéing items, the two cooks ostensibly fan the flames more for the next season than their own projects. When finished, Blais was the more articulate of the two when it came to getting across his food philosophy: “tradition and the experimental can live in peace with one another. It’s not a case of organic and simple slow food vs. modern techniques.”
Blais, who has the well-reviewed restaurant Home in Atlanta, is looking to get a national burger chain called Flip started; he is also interested in offering a line of gadgets and a show of his own. Malarkey is executive chef at Oceanaire Seafood Room in San Diego.