Eater San Diego caught up with Richard Blais, the Top Chef: All Stars winner, restaurateur and cookbook author, on the heels of his announcement of a new San Diego restaurant in the works for Little Italy. The official name of the Kettner Street restaurant has yet to be released, but Blais told Eater that it's scheduled to open in December and sent us a brief video of the construction site.
Why did you pick San Diego?
Many years ago I ran into someone who was interested in doing a project in the San Diego area; fast forward three years, and we're here. It's always been a dream of mine to have a restaurant in California and I'm just happy to be able to have the opportunity to do it.
Will you be based here?
I'll be spending a lot of time in San Diego and the Southern California area. I have restaurants and a home in Atlanta so I'll be back and forth, but yes, I'm heavily invested in what we're doing in San Diego and I will be on the ground there frequently.
How did you decide on Little Italy?
I looked at a few different spaces over the years with my partner, Mike Rosen, and I'm glad we found this one. I was out there for four days last week and I'll be heading back very soon. What I like about the area is that its got an amazing downtown vibe and that's generally the energy of my food.
Can you share any plans for the build out?
It's a gutted-out space so it'll be totally transformed; there are beautiful skylights and we're looking forward to keeping some of that vintage-y warehouse look. There will be outdoor seating.
We've all been waiting for something to go into that space.
If there's one thing I want to express, it's that I'm not a superstar chef just dropping in a concept; it's going to be a very local and unique experience to San Diego. This is such a big deal for me, I'm still trying to make a name for myself and do good things as a chef.
Have you decided on the food?
We're looking towards a late 2013 opening, so some of that is still developing. For me, the first thing is to see what I'm inspired by in the area. That could be anything from what grows in the area to what other restaurants are doing.
Will it bear any resemblance to what you do at The Spence?
I don't think so. That's a restaurant in Atlanta and this will be an individual concept, not a transplant; I don't think there will be any similarities except that I'll be there.
Are you hiring locally for the kitchen?
My inbox has already started to fill up with resumes from cooks in the area so I think it'll be at least 90% local. I think there are also people within my team who are looking forward to the opportunity to move out to Southern California so I will be bringing some people, but all positions from the front of the house to back of the house are open.
Have you spent some time in local restaurants?
I just had dinner at Market in Del Mar; to me, it was the epitome of California cuisine, I thought it was amazing. I walked through Herringbone the other day to see what my buddy Brian Malarkey's been doing — what a beautiful, stunning restaurant.
How do you want to fit into the San Diego food scene?
I just want to be a part of it. The number one, most important thing for me is to earn a place at the local table and to do that by participating and being a local chef.
· Richard Blais [Official Site]
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