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Blais Off!

Nothing on the Science Channel gets much promotion, but I think lovers of food shows might want to check out this new show featuring Richard Blais, one of the most popular and talented Top Chef contestants (who is currently competing in Top Chef All-Stars). The format is simple. Every week, Blais goes to a top specialist in one food item (th first two shows features pizza/Patsy's in East Harlem and bacon cheeseburger at Royale in the Lower East Side in NYC). Blais studies how their specialties are made and then tries to outdo them using techniques from molecular gastronomy. There is then a half-hearted competiion/taste-off between the traditional and new-fangled versions.

It's not an accident that this is on the Science Channel rather than the Food Network. The emphasis is on the science not only of MG, but of traditional cooking methods. It's a decent show, straightforward and not too gimmicky.

Reruns of the first two episodes:

12/19 5-6 a.m.
12/21 8-9 p.m.
12/21 11-12 p.m.
12/23 3-4 a.m.

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  1. watched the burger episode last night.. I thought it was good a show.. I like the information he gives and it's a easy show to watch.. I look forward to seeing how it develops..

    1. im outta town visiting family this weeken but i set my DVR to record it. i'm pretty excited to watch it when i get home!

        1. Blaise is easy to watch. He's a natural on camera so even if this show doesn't last he will likely get another opportunity.

          The weakest part of the show is the end where they have a Food Wars kind of competition. I realize those kinds of shows are popular right now, but I'm not a fan.

          1 Reply
          1. re: John E.

            Agreed on all counts (when I called the competitive part "half-hearted," that was meant as a compliment, not only to Blais, but to the producers, who clearly realize that the heart of the show is in the experiments. The format is reminiscent of Food Wars and Throwdown. I liked how it was tweaked to fit the mission of the Science Channel, but it could easily appear on the Food Network.

          2. I like the show but I really have a problem with Blais not giving credit to others who originated some of "his" ideas. Also, the show is really a watered down version of Heston Bs In Search of Perfection both book and tv show. Both of which are a few years old. I suspect he is going to get some flack from those in the food community whoare alot more competent at this then he is. He seems like a nice guy , but shd give credit where credit is due. Ill leave it at this , as I think many reading this will come to the same conclusion.

            3 Replies
            1. re: celeryroot

              I love Heston Blumenthal and ISOP, but I doubt Blais is going to take that much flak for ripping him off. There's a HUGE amount of precedent in television for one show to reuse the ideas and formats of another, especially on opposite sides of the Atlantic. It's just the way that industry seems to work.

              In fact, I'd go so far as to wager that it's easier to sell a new show to network execs as "a cross between 'In Search of Perfection' and 'Food Feuds'" than it is to sell an original concept.

              1. re: celeryroot

                Out of curiosity, how would you iike him to give credit to others on his show? Who determines to whom he should give credit? At what point should others give him credit? He's been doing MG for at least 4 or 5 years himself.

                1. re: celeryroot

                  Didn't you read the credits in the footnotes of the show? And the note of thanks on the front page? :)

                2. i actually saw the listing by accident and set the DVR, and i'm glad i did. Blais is likable & watchable, and the concept is fun. if Throwdown, Food Feuds and Good Eats had a ménage a trois and produced a love child, this would be it :)

                  and i have to say that i think it's totally ridiculous for anyone to question Blais' competence as a molecular gastronomist or propose that he "owes" credit to others for his ideas.

                  16 Replies
                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                    <and i have to say that i think it's totally ridiculous for anyone to question Blais' competence as a molecular gastronomist or propose that he "owes" credit to others for his ideas>

                    totally agree with that!

                    just watched the first two episodes from my DVR and im excited to see more of it! thought it was a very interestiing show, and glad that its more about the production and science of his food than it is about the competition. plus blais is just a likable guy and a good tv host!

                    1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                      As I said I find him likable but Im curious what you consider his ideas?
                      And no I dont think it is ridiculous to question his competence as a mg compared to so many others more experienced and respected . I think he is more interested in being a media personality then a well respected Chef.

                      1. re: celeryroot

                        i mean his ideas as they pertain to the show.

                        i think it is entirely reasonable to call them "his ideas" even when, for example, he was not the first person to fry mayo or something. mario batali didnt invent pasta puttanesca, but when i am using the recipe i got off his website, i still call it "his". the new york times article was not the first time someone had ever refrigerated their cookie dough overnight before baking, but we still call it the "new york times chocolate chip cookie"

                        i also think there is much more involved in being a competent science channel tv host than just being a competent molecular gastronomist. you also have to be competent in front of the camera, which richard definitely is.

                        1. re: celeryroot

                          "I think he is more interested in being a media personality then a well respected Chef."
                          I don't get that impression. He seems to be truly excited about MG and cooking in general and likes to teach people how it's done. A while back he was a sous chef on a TC finale and he was teaching Eric Ripert how to make ice cream with liquid nitrogen.

                          1. re: John E.

                            i definitely agree with ya john. i also think that it takes more than just mastery of MG in order to have a show about it. i know a ton of people who are brilliant in their respective fields, but would never be able to teach you anything about it!

                            1. re: John E.

                              I think he was teaching Rick Bayless about making ice cream with liquid nitrogen, not Eric Ripert.

                              1. re: Nettie

                                yep, he was Bayless' sous chef in the TCM finale & they made avocado ice cream

                                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                  yes, but he WAS showing Eric Ripert a certain technique on the finale of TC. When Blais was a finalist.
                                  If my memory is correct, Eric was one of the other finalists sous chefs, but Eric was curious and came over to watch Blais, and Blais proceeded to show him what he was doing.
                                  I'm pretty sure about that

                            2. re: celeryroot

                              "Im curious what you consider his ideas?"
                              i'm not saying he *invented* MG, but does every chef who adopts someone else's technique make a point of pointing it out on camera? hardly. when Wylie Dufresne was on TCM, did he credit Hervé This? nope. and i never watched In Search of Perfection, but i'm assuming HB didn't spend much (if any time) talking about This, or Ferran Adria, or even Harold McGee whose science texts i'm pretty sure he used as references?

                              as for his competence, what has he done to indicate that he's not? he doesn't do this stuff in his restaurants or on TV to prove that he's "better" than other MG's, he does it to introduce the results & techniques to others to *educate* us, spread awareness of the possibilities, and perpetuate the craft. what's wrong with that? and for that matter, do you really think Hervé This, or Adria, or Dufresne, or Blumenthal emerged from the womb as MG experts? they learned, they practiced, they experimented, the learned some more...that's how one develops a skill and pursues perfection. what's wrong with Blais doing that?

                              and finally, why can't he be a well respected chef AND a media personality? why is it okay for Eric Ripert, Tom Colicchio, Mario Batali, Rick Bayless, Wolfgang Puck, Julia Child, Ming Tsai, Scott Conant (i think you get the point)...but not Blais?

                              1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                You might drop JC from your list..........the others have paid their dues and spent alot of time in the kitchen , some even michelin stars. Blais has not..........
                                The difference is the others have earned their way and respect from their peers , my opinion is Blais is very much about good pr. Now if that is what he wants good for him and I wish him the best of success. I just dont find him to be more then a decent cook with a great pr team.

                                1. re: celeryroot

                                  actually, i have no desire to drop JC from the list. but thanks for the tip.

                                  1. re: celeryroot

                                    Blais received an AOS in culinary arts from The Culinary Institute of America and has studied under chefs Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, and Ferran Adria. Blais has also studied in numerous famed restaurants, including Chez Panisse and El Bulli.
                                    Who else should he learn from than Keller, Boulud & Adria?

                                    1. re: beteez

                                      You might ask him to define "studied under" Many of the contestants over the last 7 or 8 years could say same plus more but chose not to or tell it for what it was a short term unpaid internship . What you need to look at is his positions held, length of time and who mentored him on the job. His CV really turned me off , it seems to be overstated. That being said I think he could be very talented if he put his mind to it, he seems all over the map to me. I think the show has potential but the editiing , which is not his fault , needs alot of work. I hope they allow him to get involved there.
                                      By the way AOS I believe is the associate 1 1/2 year degree

                                      1. re: celeryroot

                                        I'm wondering exactly how much his CV has to do with his TV show in the first place. A lot of the best TV cooking show hosts have had no experience at all working as a chef - Alton Brown and Julia Child come to mind. Whereas Richard Blais had at least been a successful working chef prior to (and since) his TV appearances.

                                        It strikes me as a strange demand of a TV host that he also be a forefather and world renown master of his particular field of cooking. There are only so many Kellers and Adrias to go around, and they aren't always telegenic (or interested, for that matter). The question should be whether he makes a show that is interesting and worthwhile.

                                        1. re: cowboyardee

                                          It doesnt , but I didnt bring it up first just pointing out to others who did. I think he did a good job on show although there are some glaring things missing on the one I saw.

                                    2. re: celeryroot

                                      if being in a professional kitchen and earning michelin stars was the ONLY way to determine whether a chef had skill or not, then i would agree with you.

                                      but there are several ways of determining chef competence IMO