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richard blais carla hall
cj abdellah
The Mayflower
Renaissance Hotel
1127 Connecticut Ave NW
Washington, DC 20036

May 6, 2010

7:00 PM

PRICE: $175 per person inclusive

Visa Signature Price: $165 per person inclusive

Does your card say Visa Signature? Check your wallet.

HOST VENUE The Mayflower

The Mayflower, a Renaissance Hotel has earned recognition as "Washington's second-best address" with its 4-diamond rating, legendary aura and coveted White House status, attracting a long list of luminaries and notable events to its doors. A proud member of Historic Hotels of America and the largest luxury hotel in Washington, DC, the Mayflower is located in the influential business quarter near the White House, monuments, museums, fashionable shopping, world-class dining and the Metro sub- way, providing easy access to much of the region. At this celebrated downtown Washington, DC hotel, extensive renovations have restored spacious meeting rooms and elegantly appointed ballrooms to their original splendor. In the beautiful Cafe Promenade, dining takes guests on a culinary voyage of exquisitely prepared and presented international fare. And with its gracious staff, the Mayflower continues a time-honored tradition of responsive service and lavish accommodations that combine for a truly exceptional experience.

RESTAURANT Flip Burger Boutique

Richard Blais has covered a lot of ground in his rise to prominence. He began his culinary career the way a lot of teenagers do, as the “poissonier” at McDonald’s. It was here where he first dabbled in deconstruction in cuisine; serving the filet-o-fish sandwiches with no top buns.

Mr. Blais attended the Culinary Institute of America (AA’98) in Hyde Park, New York. He nurtured a growing passion for French technique and soon accepted an internship at the French Laundry in Yountville, California. There he honed his skills working underneath Thomas Keller and side-by-side with rising stars like, Grant Achatz. In 1997, Mr. Blais returned to the CIA to finish his formal education. He accepted a Fellowship in the fish kitchen and spent the next year teaching fish fabrication and cookery to over 1000 students while working on a self-sustainable farm in Mount Kisco, New York.

Upon graduating, Chef Blais went on to work with great chefs at exemplary restaurants like Daniel Boulud at Restaurant Daniel. He truly started to find his professional compass after a brief stint in Spain at El Bulli under Ferran Adria. In 2000, Richard was lured to Atlanta by a group of restaurateurs to run a small seafood kitchen, before opening BLAIS, in the winter of 2004. The eponymous, BLAIS Restaurant opened to critical acclaim both locally and nationally and pushed the boundaries of creative cuisine.

From the culmination of his unyielding passion and unique experience, Trail Blais was born. Trail Blais is Mr. Blais’ creative culinary company that has consulted on, designed, and operated three and four star restaurants in Atlanta. Currently, Trail Blais is operating Flip Burger Boutique in midtown Atlanta, a four star eatery redefining the iconic American burger experience. A second Flip Burger opened in Birmingham at the end of 2009. Conceptual work for new ventures in Los Angeles and Miami is also underway.

Chef Blais has also undertaken product development and endorsements for major corporations like Diageo, LG, McCormick, iSi and Quaker. He is the spokesperson for the Sous Vide Supreme, the world’s first home sous vide unit. Blais, a recipient of Gayot Guide’s ‘Top Five Rising Chefs of 2005,’ appeared on BRAVO’s Emmy Award winning series ‘Top Chef’ and ‘Top Chef Masters’ and on the Food Network’s ‘Iron Chef America’ and ‘Food Detectives’. He has been featured in numerous publications such as The New York Times, Sports Illustrated and Food & Wine Magazine for his creative take on American food.

He resides in Atlanta with his wife and daughter.


Alchemy Caterers

Carla Hall, fun, outgoing and a lover of the arts, is a native of Nashville, TN. She is a graduate of Howard University’s Business School with a degree in Accounting. After spending two years at Price Waterhouse and acquiring a C.P.A. certificate, she shifted gears and moved overseas to seek the runway lights in Paris and Milan, then later London. Socialization primarily taking place in the kitchens throughout Europe, Carla quickly fell in love with the art of food.

Upon returning to the States, Carla started a lunch delivery and catering company called the Lunch Bunch, as a fluke, where she targeted the African-American community. Her premise was to show her customers that you could enjoy great food without using beef or pork. After four years of self-study she enrolled in, and is a graduate of, L’Academie de Cuisine. In 1996 Carla served an externship at the Henley Park Hotel where she was promoted to Sous Chef; and in May 1997 she joined a sister hotel, The State Plaza, as Executive Chef. She then moved to The Washington Club, a private social club, in September 1999, as Director/Executive Chef.

In 2003, Carla left The Washington Club to start her own catering/private chef company – Alchemy Caterers. She has taught cooking classes at CulinAerie, Sur la Table, L’Academie de Cuisine, and Montgomery College, as well as team building classes at different venues in the DC metropolitan area. In addition to making a few guest appearances on public television, Carla competed on the The Food Network cooking series “FoodFight.” Additionally she had the opportunity to serve as the chef at a photo shoot for a cookbook project. For the last seven years Carla has split her time between catering and private cheffing in various parts of the country and abroad. She is an active member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, as well as a former Board member.

Carla’s food balances the heart and soul of the South and the refinement of her classic French training. She enjoys creating memorable comfort dishes with fresh, seasonal and local ingredients. Carla approaches each event as an opportunity to make a connection with the client and change the way they experience food. She firmly believes “If you’re not in a good mood, the only thing you should make is a reservation.”


Chris Jacobson, better known as CJ, made it to the final five from the original 15 contestants on the recently concluded season of Bravo’s “Top Chef.” "CJ" is a 31-year old private chef from El Toro California who currently resides in Venice Beach, California. He has worked for renowned clients such as author and columnist, Arianna Hufflington, as well as the Marciano family of the Guess Corporation.

A towering 6’8”, CJ is a former volleyball player who has survived testicular cancer. He is a confident competitor whose favorite simple summer recipe is Marinated Tomatoes with Beef and Cheese.

Chris trained at the California School of Culinary Arts (CSCA), and from there worked in restaurants such as Axe and Campanile .

The Yard Gets Top Chef
And in ever more Santa Monica Top Cheffer news, Chris "CJ" Jacobsen has taken over the kitchen at The Yard on Broadway. The season three chef has been onboard now for three weeks focusing on market-driven small plates. This week's specials include: grilled baby back ribs with apricot tomatillo bbq sauce, watermelon salad, mint; fried summer zucchini with shallot crème fraiche, herbs; saffron risotto stuffed Beatrice eggplant, spanish chorizo, cherry tomatoes, shaved manchego.

RESTAURANT Mayflower Hotel

Just like many of his colleagues, Abdellah Aguenaou, executive chef at Washington's The Renaissance Mayflower hotel, started cooking as a youngster. But unlike most, he actually started working with his father in the family restaurant in Rabat, Morocco, his native city.

"I cooked, and in the early morning, I would do the shopping and go to local farms," he says. So not only did he learn at an early age about the wonders of fresh and local ingredients, he also got his first taste of the glories of local spices ground fresh each day.

With that as a background, it's small wonder that Aguenaou, as a university student in France studying engineering, worked in local Parisian restaurants at night. Besides picking up pocket money, he also picked up the rudiments of classic French cooking. At some point during his schooling, he realized that working in the kitchen wasn't really work at all.

"I just loved it," he says. "It was fun, and I learned every day." Eventually, Aguenaou moved to New York, where to learn English, he got a menial job in a restaurant kitchen. Since he was always watching the cooks at work, he could substitute behind the stove when someone called in sick. With enough in his savings and plenty of practical experience to boot, Aguenaou enrolled in the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), from which he earned two degrees and graduated with both honors and high honors.

"When I was in school," he says, "I attended classes and also helped the guestchef to do demonstrations. Then I would go to New York City to work for free, just to learn. I'd get in the kitchen, peel potatoes and do the dirty work, but I would watch and learn."

And where were those training kitchens? The St. Regis hotel and the restaurants of Le Cirque, L'espinasse and the late Windows on the World. His other extracurricular activities proved to be a stepping-stone: Aguenaou founded and was president of the international club.

"We would do a big cookout on weekends," he says. "So as a student, I was doing a chef's job and didn't know it. I was buying, planning and cooking. The school was the best thing that happened to me. I took advantage of everything." As an extern at the CIA, Aguenaou went west to Scottsdale, Ariz., where he worked as a line cook at the five-star Mary Elaine at the Phoenician Resort under chef Alessandro Stratta.

"That's when I learned a lot about fine foods," he says. "Stratta was demanding the finest foods. He didn't want me to go back to school."

After several years elsewhere, Aguenaou ended up in Washington, working first at the Marriot Wardman Park hotel as assistant banquet chef. After several years and a promotion, Aguenaou moved to the Mayflower, where he oversees all aspects of the hotel's kitchens. He also has control over recipe development, and has shifted the menus to showcase more seasonal meals, some with a hint of Moroccan flavors -- such as the sea bass recipe.

"The fish sits in a Moroccan marinade of ginger, garlic, paprika, cumin, orange juice, olive oil, cilantro and parsley," he says. "The citrus and ginger work well with the fish."

Although Washington is his home, Aguenaou visits his parents in Rabat, and while there, cooks for them.

"My parents are very proud," the former engineering student says. "They are proud that I could make a good living, have a happy family, plus they are amazed at all the attention I get."