***Spoiler alert, if Top Chef is languishing on your DVR, and you don't know who won, stop reading right now!
For everyone else, doesn't it feel as if all is right with the world, for just one moment at least? Yes, that's right, Atlanta's own Richard Blais is the winner of Top Chef All Stars!
Last night I was amazed at how nervous I was, as if it would impact me personally if Blais didn't win. Mostly I just find it deeply unsatisfying when the best doesn't win on a reality show, which is almost always (Hosea and guy who works at a restaurant called The Rat, I'm looking at you!) So just this once, hard work and talent won out, which makes us all feel a little better about life, right?
I was intrigued to hear Blais' entreaties that he must win so he can finally have his own restaurant. Isn't that what he has now? I assume what he meant is 200K would allow him to start the kind of restaurant he really wants, which is presumably not a hamburger or even a hot dog restaurant.
It has been oft lamented around the blogosphere that someone as talented as Blais is relegated to just hamburgers. Shaun Doty is in the same boat. It's not that they don't want to do more, it's that the Atlanta market hasn't rewarded their higher end efforts. I unfortunately never got to eat Blais' non-burger cuisine, so I can't vouch for it, but I am hoping that he now has the name recognition and the cashola to try his hand at something akin to last night's Tongue & Cheek.
I long ago dined at Wylie Dufresne's palace of molecular gastronomy W-50 in NY. While I found it "challenging" and "interesting," I didn't think it was so delicious that I would want to return all that soon. And therein lies the rub. In a city like NY, you can sustain an every once in a while kind of restaurant, but in Atlanta, that's near impossible.
How often do you really want to eat something "interesting" but not craveable? On the flip side, I worry that too many don't want to be challenged at all. I don't want comfort food every day of the week either, no matter how good steak and fried chicken are. And it seems that is what Atlantans have been accused of, rejecting the challenging in favor of the imminently understandable.
So can we all agree that if Blais actually opens his dream restaurant in Atlanta we'll make it worth his while by at least checking it out and even getting pushed a little out of our comfort zones? Blais said last night that he now understands the "pleasure principle," so I hope he will finally find that happy medium between too easy and too weird because I am dying to try something prepared by our homegrown wunderkind other than cookout fare!
Congrats to Chef Blais! I for one was very proud to be an Atlantan last night and was thrilled to see our fair city get some much deserved foodie street cred!