Q&A with Halloween Baking Championship Host Richard Blais
On the new show Halloween Baking Championship, expect to be blown away by some of the extremely creepy creations the bakers make, but even more than that, be ready for probably the scariest panel of judges you will ever see, and a host who's not afraid to deliver some deadly news to eliminated bakers. Judges Carla Hall, Ron Ben-Israel and Sherry Yard will be dishing out critiques, while Richard Blais will be sending home those bakers who don't meet the spooktacular criteria of the $25,000 competition show. Before you tune in for the premiere on Monday, October 5 at 9|8c, get to know each of them a little better.
Richard has appeared on Bravo's Top Chef and later went on to win Top Chef All-Stars. He's a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and operates his own company, Trail Blais, which includes restaurants from Atlanta to San Diego, including his most-recently opened, Juniper & Ivy.
Richard Blais: Anything with nuts in it. See, my youngest daughter is allergic to nuts, so I have to make sure all the snickers and Reese's and Almond Joys and $100,000 Bars and Chunky Bars and Peanut M&M's and Whatchamacallit Bars are thoroughly disposed of. I'm a good dad!
What do you usually give out to trick-or-treaters?
RB: Toothbrushes. Just kidding! Coupons to my restaurants. Just kidding again! Chocolate?
Do you have any funny Halloween stories you could share from your childhood?
RB: When I was 12 I thought I was too old and cool for trick-or-treating, so I didn't get a costume. Halloween came, and sure thing, I wanted to go trick-or-treating, so I just threw on a gray hoodie and pretended I was Elliott from the movie E.T.
As a parent, a few years ago I threw on a werewolf mask and knocked on our home door and frightened my kids to tears. I have video proof!
RB: Anything that requires stilts — because, stilts; obviously.
When it comes to Halloween treats, desserts and sweets, do you lean toward cute or creepy? Why?
RB: I lean towards creepy. There will certainly be blood and guts on my restaurant menus! I guess, and here comes some gravitas, it's an interesting parallel to me. I mean, we eat dead things — it's kind of creepy already! I'm also planning on serving bugs this year, chocolate-covered ants and spicy crickets!
What's your favorite baking trick or tip in general?
RB: Keep the uncooked cookies far enough apart from each other on the sheet before baking. Or else you get one giant cookie!
If you had to bake a cake to impress a Halloween character (like Frankenstein, Dracula, etc.), who would it be and why?
RB: If it can be Phil Hartman as Frankenstein, then that's it. But maybe a family meal for the Cullens from Twilight? They're vampires, and I often mimic them when taking still photographs. I call it "my Twilight look."
Sometimes, I pretend our neighbors are vampires. It keeps taking out the garbage interesting.
In reality, I think it would be Dracula. I just have so many questions for Dracula, like "Why bats and not birds?" "Is blood nutritious?" "Have you ever thought about using some foundation and makeup?" "Since you are so old, what's the most-dramatic change in Major League Baseball? Who was better, Babe Ruth or A Rod.?"
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever had to bake (like a towering croquembouche, or a multi-tiered wedding cake)? How did you get through it?
RB: I did once cook a zombie-themed multicourse dinner in a cemetery. We baked a few things there, and the whole night was entirely spooky!
RB: Smell my feet, and give me something yum to eat? No, that's horrible. Bake tasty treats, don't overthink the tricks! And, most important, have fun! It's only a matter of 25,000 bones! And. Life or death.
What criteria are you looking for in a well-executed Halloween dessert?
RB: Visually thematic. A story behind the creation. Something not over-sweet that I want to eat and continue to eat after the first bite!