Interview with Chef Rick Bayless

Posted on Nov 10, 2012 under Archives, Chefs, Interviews | No Comment
Chef Rick Bayless

Chef Rick Bayless

I recently visited Chef Rick Bayless’s RED O restaurant for a quick demo and tasting for media  on margaritas and guacamole and to celebrate his new book, Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles and Snacks.  I sat down and chatted with Chef Bayless about his philosophy on food, the emergence of Mexican cuisine in the US, and his latest projects.


Award-winning chef-restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality Rick Bayless has done more than any other culinary star to introduce Americans to authentic Mexican cuisine and to change the image of Mexican food in America. Rick is fourth generation in an Oklahoma family of restaurateurs and grocers. From 1980 to 1986, after studying Spanish and Latin American Studies as an undergraduate, and doing doctoral work in Anthropological Linguistics at the University of Michigan, Rick lived in Mexico with his wife, Deann, writing his now-classic Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From The Heart of Mexico (William Morrow, 1987).

In 1996, Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine (Scribner) won the IACP National Julia Child “Cookbook of the Year Award.”   At the 2001 James Beard Awards, Mexico–One Plate at a Time, (Scribner) companion to the first season of the Public Television series by the same name, was singled out as the “Best International Cookbook.”

In 1987, having moved to Chicago, Rick opened the hugely successful Frontera Grill, which specializes in contemporary regional Mexican cooking.  In 1988, Food & Wine magazine selected Rick as “Best New Chef of the Year,” and in 1991, he won a James Beard Award for “Best American Chef: Midwest.” In 1995, he won another James Beard Award for “National Chef of the Year” as well as an award for “Chef of the Year” from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP). In 1998, the Beard Foundation honored Rick as “Humanitarian of the Year.” In 2002, Bon Appétit honored him with the “Cooking Teacher of the Year Award.”
On the heels of Frontera Grill’s success, Rick opened the Topolobampo in 1989. Adjacent to Frontera Grill, Tobolobampo is one of America’s only fine-dining Mexican restaurants.

In 1996, Rick began a prepared food line of salsas, chips, and grilling rubs under the Frontera Foods label. Frontera Foods went on to open Frontera Fresco—a food kiosk in the historic Marshall Fields (now Macy’s) building in 2005 in Chicago.

“Mexico—One Plate at a Time” is currently beginning its 9th season on PBS.

RED O, on Melrose Avenue, is the first Los Angeles restaurant by Rick, and his only outside of Chicago.  The menu features both authentic Mexican fare and lighter “California-style” dishes that are updated seasonally.

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