Q&A with Halloween Baking Championship Host Richard Blais

Get to know Halloween Baking Championship host, Richard Blais.
Richard Blais

Host Richard Blais during the Pre-Heat round, Sculpted Scary Treats, Monster Mash-Ups, as seen on Food Network’s Halloween Baking Championship, Season 1.

Photo by: Eddy Chen ©2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Eddy Chen, 2015, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

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.

What's your favorite Halloween candy?

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!

What's your favorite Halloween costume and why?

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!

Any advice for the Halloween Baking Competitors?

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!

Next Up

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Richard Blais Bio

Most recognizable as the winner of Bravo's Top Chef All-Stars, Richard Blais has played an influential role in hospitality for the last 15 years. He began his career, as so many young aspiring chefs do, as the "poissonnier" at McDonald's. It was here that he first dabbled in deconstruction in cuisine, serving Filet-O-Fish sandwiches sans top bun. His developing passion for food and the service industry led Richard to The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. As an ambitious student, he spent time between semesters studying at the French Laundry in Yountville, Calif., under renowned Chef Thomas Keller and alongside then-rising stars Grant Achatz and Eric Ziebold. Upon graduating from the CIA in 1998, Richard ventured to New York for the opportunity to work with Chef Daniel Boulud at his famous flagship, Restaurant Daniel. Richard then followed his professional compass to Roses, Spain, where he completed a brief stage at El Bulli with culinary wizard Ferran Adrià. In 2000 Richard relocated to Atlanta to oversee a local seafood concept. His wildly creative approach to cooking and cuisine led to the establishment of Trail Blais, a forward-thinking culinary company that has consulted on, designed and operated some of Atlanta's most-popular eateries, including multiple outposts of Flip Burger Boutique and HD-1. He recently launched The Spence, a restaurant concept in midtown Atlanta, and opened Juniper & Ivy, in San Diego, where he offers a refined approach to American cuisine and showcases the seasonal and local ingredients of California. In Richard's debut cookbook, Try This at Home: Recipes from My Head to Your Plate, he reveals a simplified approach to adventurous cooking by sharing new flavor combinations and textures to reinvent home cooks' classic dishes. Each of the 125 recipes is straightforward enough to make at home, but for those who want to try using liquid nitrogen or a sous-vide machine, Richard offers fun variations on his recipes that add another level of excitement in the kitchen. Try This at Home was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award in 2014 in the Cookbook: General Cooking category. In December 2013 Richard appeared as the host of a brand-new television program entitled Cook Your Ass Off. The show, which aired on the HLN network, is a transformational culinary contest that focuses on the health struggles of everyday people. Talented chef contestants are pitted against each other in a three-round competition to transform daily indulgences into healthy and delicious meals. Richard has also appeared on the Today Show, Good Morning America, Live! with Kelly and Michael, and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, as well as in numerous publications, including The New York Times, InStyle and Food & Wine magazine.

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