Some athletes eat to run, others run to eat. Celebrity chef Richard Blais, who turned to running to help lose more than 60 pounds and win over a crush, now his wife, tries to balance the two philosophies. The 44-year-old restaurateur, cookbook author and winner of Top Chef All-Stars is always on the go, traveling the world, trying new foods and making regular appearances as host and judge on cooking shows. And the first thing he does when he lands is lace up to go for a run.
“I go for a run in whatever city I’m in, and I used to go back to my hotel and order enough room service for three people. At one point I definitely ran to eat,” says Blais, who owns a 4:24 marathon PR. “Now I think of food as delicious fuel.”
He lives in San Diego with his family, but Blais is a native New Yorker, and he’s heading back this November to run the New York City Marathon. It’s his fourth time toeing the line in Staten Island, and he’s running on the charity team for Save the Children.
“I grew up watching the marathon on television, eating way too many sausage biscuits while watching other people run fast,” he says. “There’s just something special about this race. It’s the fall, the holidays are coming and it’s just a nostalgic time for me.”
Nostalgia aside, the challenge of balancing family, work, travel and running is as real for Blais as it is for anyone. He says there are a lot of “almost dropped balls while you’re juggling and trying to keep everything going.” Family comes first for the chef, with running further down the list.
“It’s really just jamming miles in whenever I can to stay fit, especially when I have a race on the ledger,” says Blais, who credits running with giving him the freedom to do his job as a chef, and maybe eat two servings of mashed potatoes on occasion. “A big challenge for me is mental, especially on the business side. The idea that emails are stockpiling while I’m out running for two or three hours can be challenging for sure.”
Living in Southern California, Blais has gotten into “running in the wild,” and is enjoying the trail running scene. But when asked about his favorite place to run, he shared that it depends on the moment, saying, “Sometimes you just have those runs that click.”
As for great running cities, Blais has three, and New York is at the top of his list. Besides the marathon course, he says a loop around Central Park as a must-do for any runner. Chicago is another place he loves due to being able to run on Lake Michigan with the cityscape next to you. And Cincinnati is a sleeper favorite, he says.
“I love it, there are so many bridges and I’m all about goals like ‘I want to run in two different states today’,” says Blais who would like to run with other chefs, as long as they aren’t faster than him.
Blais, infamous for his use of liquid nitrogen in cooking, has yet to try cryotherapy for run recovery. However, living in SoCal, he sees it as a way to bridge the worlds of “weird, science food” and athletes.
“I’m really interested in it as a business model,” says Blais who has been working with liquid nitrogen for 12 years. “Anyone who wants to talk about a Richard Blais Cryotherapy Center business plan, I’m open to it. Then we could serve liquid nitrogen acai bowls afterwards!”
“Quick Fire” Questions
Bucket list races: “I would love to do some international running, maybe international races and get out into the woods for some trail races as well. We’ll see how this race goes!”
Thoughts on gels and chews: “I love the idea of whole, organic food on a run, like shoving a whole-wheat tortilla in my shorts and eating it as I go. But the reality is that doesn’t work so well. So, I eat plain gels. Artificial flavors irritate me.”
What if you could create your very own gel flavor: “It would be a healthy, Californian, Mexican gel flavor packet. I should get on that.”
Must-have gear: “As long as I’m dressed legally and am wearing sneakers, I’m good. I like to get rid of things as I go as a reward to myself. I wear things I can get rid of on purpose, and at the end of a race it’s absolutely as minimal as you can get.”
Favorite running shoes: “I’m running in New Balance right now. I did a show, Cooking with Team USA, before the Olympics. Emma Coburn introduced me to some of her friends and they hooked me up with gear.”
Pre-race food for New York City Marathon: “Whole Foods salad bar, I like to keep it super simple now. I’ve had amazing food the night before, but you don’t want to be burping up barbecued octopus at mile 17.”
Post-race debauchery: “Afterwards I do sort of reward myself. It will be a 48-ounce steak or a couple cheeseburgers or a whole pizza pie, something like that.”
Running goal: “I would love to race in a costume. If I could ever get to the point where I could find two people dressed like storm troopers to run a marathon or half marathon with me that would be pretty cool. I could see what it was like to run in Darth Vader’s shoes, well probably not his actual shoes since I’d be running, but you know what I mean.”