Chef Bio: Rick Bayless

Rick Bayless

Growing up in a family of grocers and restaurateurs, Rick Bayless seemed destined for a career in food. With his pure Midwestern roots – he was born in Oklahoma in 1953 – Bayless has cultivated a reputation as a Mexican chef, who aims to expose diners to authentic Mexican food.

Bayless is perhaps best known for Frontera Grill, which won a James Beard Award in 2007 for Outstanding Restaurant, in Chicago. Frontera Grill shares its bar and the front door with its sister, Topolobampo. While Frontera Grill offers a more casual dining experience, Topolobampo caters to those who enjoy fine dining. Both restaurants serve traditional Mexican food, made with local organic ingredients, for which Bayless is known.

XOCO, Bayless’ third Chicago eatery, offers Mexican street fare and snacks, including empanadas and churros, giving diners a look at Mexican classics.  The self-described quick service café is closed on Sundays and Mondays.  Meanwhile, Macy’s shoppers in Illinois and San Francisco can also enjoy Bayless’s authentic Mexican street fair, such as tortas and tamales, at Frontera Fresca where prices top out at $7.50.

Bayless’s culinary achievements have also earned him many distinctions. Food & Wine Magazine named him 1988’s Best New Chef; the James Beard Foundation honored him as 1991’s Best American Chef in the Midwest, 1995’s National Chef of the Year, and 1998’s Humanitarian of the Year; and Bon Apetite awarded him 2002’s Cooking Teacher of the Year.

He shares his love of Mexican food with television viewers on his PBS show One Plate at a Time.  In addition to serving as a guest judge on Bravo’s hit show Top Chef, Bayless competed in the inaugural season of Top Chef Masters, a spin-off of Top Chef that pits culinary heavyweights against each other.  Bayless out-cooked Hubert Keller and Michael Chiarello in the final round to win the title of the first Top Chef Master in 2009.

Bayless has also appeared on such television shows as The Today Show, Good Morning America, Iron Chef America, CBS This Morning, Great Chefs of America, The Isaac Mizrahi Show, and Martha Stewart Living.

The noted Mexican chef is also an award-winning author. His book Mexican Kitchen: capturing the vibrant flavors of a world-class cuisine was named the IACP Best Cookbook of the Year in 1996, and Mexico, one plate at a time earned a 2001 James Beard Award for the Cookbook of the Year. Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures and Mexican Every Day, both cookbooks, were both nominated for James Beard Awards in 2005 and 2006 respectively.

Bayless is also a regular contributor to Eating Well, Martha Stewart Living Magazine, Travel and Leisure, and Yoga Journal.

In addition to Frontera Products, his line of prepared Mexican foods, including chips and salsa, the celebrity chef founded and heads the Frontera Farmer Foundation, a non-profit that provides grants to farmers in the Chicago area to help them maintain their farms.

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