ORLANDO, Fla. – From fast food to fame, celebrity chef Richard Blais is sharing his experiences as a reality TV host and competitor and dishing on his new Orlando restaurant Four Flamingos.
What many people may not know, Blais came from humble beginnings, working at a fast food chain.
“My first job was at McDonald’s when I was 14. I was the fish cook. The first few sandwiches I put out, I forgot to put the top bun on them, so everyone was coming back through the drive-thru and that was my start in this career. I was serving open-faced fish sandwiches,” Blais said.
Blais is a native New Yorker who competed in season four of the Bravo show “Top Chef.” He would return to win “Top Chef: All Stars” in 2010. He has appeared in several reality TV cooking shows and competitions. He said the late chef Anthony Bourdain was his mentor throughout his career.
“Tony Bourdain says, ‘When are you going to get off the Top Chef teet,’” Blais said. “He was giving me advice that I could do so many things. I had so much respect for him saying I could do so many things.”
The 49-year-old is now a cookbook author, owner of several restaurants and continues his TV career, judging, mentoring and competing in reality cooking shows. He’s now bringing his passion for food to Central Florida.
“What is more of a classic image of Florida than the Flamingo?” Blais said.
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Blais has opened a new restaurant Four Flamingos inside Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress in Orlando. The restaurant offers Caribbean-inspired recipes. Everything from empanadas to pasta and seafood dishes. Even the drinks give off tropical vibes.
“Four Flamingos is family-friendly. People might think of me and think super serious food. We have a secret menu that includes a burger,” Blais said. “If you want something different, ask for Shelby’s secret dish of the day and that will get you something that’s truly special. We always have three or four dishes that are in the process of becoming menu items so there’s always a few items around that will be on the menu tomorrow, so ask for that. That’s the Insider tip,” Blais said.
While recording the latest episode of News 6′s Florida Foodie podcast with meteorologist Candace Campos, Blais described what he saw with his family while on a nature trail in Florida during the holidays.
“I saw my first gator. Like a 13-foot. They make noise,” Blais said. “I was shook. It was a big gator that bellowed. They sound like lions.”