New York-born, California-based chef Richard Blais has been keeping busy lately with a touring live show he calls “stand-up cooking,” part kitchen demonstration and part stand-up comedy show. Now that he’s opened his first Las Vegas restaurant with Crack Shack at Park MGM, maybe his show will find a Vegas home as well.
“We’ve done a few different corporate events here, just in and out, but I’m probably one of the only chefs who would love to do the Vegas residency thing,” Blais says. After all, he is operating in the same building as Lady Gaga. “A boy can dream.”
Blais is a celebrity chef known for his TV appearances on “Top Chef” (where he was runner-up in 2008 and the winner of the all-star season in 2011) as well as “Masterchef,” “Guy’s Grocery Games,” “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America” and “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.” He created the gourmet fried chicken eatery Crack Shack with business partner Michael Rosen and the new Las Vegas location, which opened Sunday and is situated directly on the Strip next to Eataly, is the brand’s sixth store and the first outside California.
“I think when you get to Vegas, it sort of validates some sort of celebrity chef-ness,” Blais says. “You get off the airplane and there are [billboards with] Gordon Ramsay’s face, and Giada and my friend Guy Fieri has a place across the street. I’m not Gordon or Guy and I don’t have that sort of household recognition, but being here helps me feel like I’m heading that way, which is great.”
Crack Shack is known for crafting sandwiches, salads and other dishes focused on locally raised, antibiotic-free Jidori chicken and the general approach is a little bit lighter than most fried chicken joints. You can get the crispy, juicy stuff in five or ten-piece orders with a choice of signature dipping sauces from house-made ranch to “sweet heat” hot sauce, and the French fries are made with chicken schmaltz. Snacks include deviled eggs topped with French toast crumble and candied bacon or Mexican poutine, fries with pollo asado and jalapeño cheese sauce.
Popular sandwich offerings include the Coop Deville, with fried chicken, pickled Fresno chilies, lime mayo and cabbage on a brioche bun, and the Firebird made with a spicy fried chicken thigh, ranch, crispy onions and pickles on a potato roll. Fresh salads and bowls like the Downward Dog, with grilled vegetables, quinoa, hummus and lemon yogurt vinaigrette, highlight the lighter side of Crack Shack’s menu.
“Our take is a little lighter and a little fresher,” Blais says. “There’s a lot of Mexican influence since our first location was in San Diego so close to the border, and generally that type of food is what we like to eat. I think we’re more sandwich and salad-based where a lot of places are just about the fried chicken. We have a pretty wide variety, a celebration of chicken.”
Crack Shack at Park MGM is open from 9 a.m. until midnight Sunday through Thursday and from 9 a.m. until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.