My epiphany:br /br /If you can’t incorporate your hobby – or at least parts of it – into your daily work, you’re missing out on injecting span style=”font-weight: bold;”TRUE/span passion into your life and /br /This revelation came to me after dinner with my wife and kids the other night. I’d just whipped up an amazing honey-glazed, lemon pepper gilled salmon and we were having a wonderful, refreshing conversation about our hobbies and other non-work related topics. Then, while watching a href=””TopChef/a on a href=””Bravo/a, the idea slowly crept /br /Why not cook up reviews of brands – everything from businesses to books to music and pop culture – based on my span style=”font-weight: bold;”TRUE Branding/span span style=”font-style: italic;”(a href=””Truthful/a, a href=””Relevant/a, a href=””Unique/a and a href=””Engaging/a)/span criteria? In a sense, I have been doing that here, but never really focusing on a specific course of action. I’d wait for inspiration to find me – passively requiring my muse to seek ME out. That was the wrong /br /For God’s sake, span style=”font-weight: bold;”I’m the Brand Chef!/span And it’s only taken me a year and 43 posts to figure it out…br /br /Of course, I’ll still be throwing in some a href=””rants/a, some a href=””theory/a and the occasional a href=””personal updates/a, but you can look forward to a more focused, more “culinary” approach from the Brand Chef in the /br /span style=”font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;”So let’s get cookin’!/spana onblur=”try {parent.deselectBloggerImageGracefully();} catch(e) {}” href=””img style=”margin: 0pt 0pt 10px 10px; float: right; cursor: pointer; width: 250px; height: 462px;” src=”” alt=”” border=”0″ //abr /br /Because I owe this epiphany to span style=”text-decoration: underline;”/spana href=””B/aa href=””ravo TV’s TopChef /a(and the fact that I’m a sucker for ANY span style=”font-style: italic;”quality/span cooking show), my maiden review goes to Richard Blais – one of the finalists in season four of TopChef, and my personal choice to win. (a href=””His web site/a)br /br /So how does he score in span style=”font-weight: bold;”TRUE Branding?/spanbr /br /span style=”font-weight: bold;”Chef Richard Blais – TRUE Branding Evaluation:/spanbr /br /span style=”font-weight: bold;”T=True:/spanbr /Richard is undeniably span style=”font-style: italic;”“The Blaze,”/span as other chefs on season four have labeled him. Being a student of innovative chefs like a href=”″Thomas Keller/a and a href=””Ferran Adria/a, Richard has deeply ingrained passions for unique culinary design and the deconstruction of classical dishes. And Richard’s commitment to these core passions has been the focal point of virtually every challenge this season. Only once have I seen him stray from “his core” during a challenge to a genre where he wasn’t as comfortable. Although he lost that challenge, in a post judging interview, he admitted he’d strayed from his base competencies to try to span style=”font-style: italic;”“please the judges,”/span but ultimately lost sight of his best asset – span style=”font-style: italic;”himself!/spanspan style=”font-weight: bold;” 3 Stars /spanspan style=”font-style: italic;”(out of 4)/spanbr /br /span style=”font-weight: bold;”R=Relevant:/spanbr /Seeing as though this review is derived from a reality television show, I’ll leave the hard relevance judgments in the hands of Chef Blais’ actual customers. His relevance to the contests, though, has been nothing less than stellar. From Chicago’s a href=””deep-dish pizza quick-fire challenge /ato elimination rounds that a href=””feign foreign standards/a, Richard holds true to his innovative culinary design style while wowing the judges span style=”font-style: italic;”(and guests)/span by meeting and surpassing every charge he’s given. span style=”font-weight: bold;”3.5 Stars/span span style=”font-style: italic;”(out of 4)/spanbr /br /span style=”font-weight: bold;”U=Unique:/spanbr /You have to see his technique in action to really understand the awe-inspiring admiration I have for Richard Blais. Hands down, he’s the most unique chef I’ve ever seen. With an almost chemistry-set-like approach for creating “the essence of the dish,” Richard surprises at every turn. If it’s a spin on a traditional custom or distorting our schema of particular ingredients, Richard keeps his recipes as unique as any I’ve ever seen. a href=””span style=”font-style: italic;”C’mon… plantain chips and salsa?!?/span/a span style=”font-weight: bold;”4 Stars/span span style=”font-style: italic;”(out of 4)/spanbr /br /span style=”font-weight: bold;”E=Engaging:/spanbr /As I’ve watched the episodes progress, it’s becoming slightly more obvious for whom the judges are rooting. Challenge after challenge, a href=”;p=tom_colicchio”Chef Tom Colicchio/a and a href=”;p=padma_lakshmi”Padma Lakshmi/a “pop up” in the kitchen, almost salivating at Richard’s next groundbreaking concoction while virtually ignoring the other contestants. And Richard, in true engaging style, obliges with a hint here, a taste there, just to keep them coming back for more. He gives the customer (judges) something to talk about. They’ve come to expect his flair for the unusual, and salivate like Pavlov’s pets waiting on their next morsel. Brilliant! span style=”font-weight: bold;”4 Stars/span span style=”font-style: italic;”(out of 4)/spanbr /br /Personal branding is a little more challenging than branding in business. It’s a soulful and intimate process of self-discovery and realization. It’s a process that requires the span style=”font-weight: bold;”TRUE Branding/span criteria to be evaluated internally and externally at a level that may make some people uncomfortable, but span style=”font-style: italic;”(cognitively or not)/span Richard Blais has structured a great example of span style=”font-weight: bold;”TRUE/span personal brand and has incorporated it beautifully into his chosen /br /span style=”font-weight: bold;”TRUE Branding Score: 3.625!/spanbr /br /Paraphrasing his BIO on Bravo:br /blockquoteRichard is not only a chef, but also a culinary designer. He is innovative and personal. Richard believes cooking is an art and a craft and food is meant to stimulate on many levels./blockquotebr /And “The Blaze” also has a span style=”font-weight: bold;”TRUE Brand/span worth bragging /br /What could you do to bolster your personal brand? Cases like Richard’s inspire me to bring my core to the game – personally and professionaly. His passion is his hobby and his hobby is his career. Can you think of others that carry the same flame as Chef Blais?br /br /Keep Cooking!br /Andrewbr /br /(edited) Photo Credit: a href=””