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Rick Bayless has done more than any other chef to introduce Americans to authentic Mexican cuisine. Along the way, he has changed the image of Mexican food in America through his cookbooks, television shows, and his award-winning Chicago restaurants, Frontera Grill and the more elegant Topolobampo.
Chef Bayless was raised in an Oklahoma restaurant family. He studied Spanish and Latin American studies as an undergraduate, followed by doctoral work in Anthropological Linguistics at the University of Michigan. Rick and his wife Deann lived in Mexico for six years, where his natural interest in the cuisine and cultural foodways evolved into a passion. This coupled with his research resulted in his first cookbook, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico. When it was published in 1987, Craig Claiborne, writing in The New York Times, said it was “the greatest contribution to the Mexican table imaginable”
In 1987, the chef and Deann opened the vibrantly casual Frontera Grill in the heart of Chicago where they showcased contemporary regional Mexican cooking. The food was a far cry from what most of their fellow citizens considered “typical Mexican food” and it met with great critical acclaim. To this day, it’s a Chicago culinary landmark. A few years later, the couple opened the more upscale Topolobampo, which is one of the country’s only fine-dining Mexican restaurant. It, too, has been awarded nearly every accolade possible. The restaurants, operated next to each other, share a lively energy. More recently, Rick opened far more casual eateries called Frontera Fresco in Chicago and California.
Both Frontera Grill and Topolobampo have received awards and distinctions from, among others, Conde Nast Traveler, Travel Holiday, International Herald Tribune, Wine Spectator, Restaurants & Institutions (Ivy), Chicago, Playboy, Zagat, local newspapers and trade journals. Topolobampo was nominated two years in a row by the James Beard Foundation as one of the most outstanding restaurants in the United States. Frontera Grill won the award in 2007.
Rick has written a number of award-winning cookbooks that include: Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine, which won the IACP Julia Child Cookbook of the Year Award; Salsas That Cook, written with Deann and JeanMarie Brownson; Mexico — One Plate at a Time, which was a companion to the first season of the Public Television series by the same name and won the James Beard Award for Best International Cookbook; and Mexican Everyday. The PBS series, One Plate at a Time, is still being filmed and aired.
Chef Bayless and his partners started Frontera Foods in 1995, which sells prepared food products such as salsas, chips, and grilling rubs.
The chef and his staff founded the Frontera Farmer Foundation in 2003, set up to support local farmers by offering capital improvement grants. He also has long been active in Share Our Strength, the nation's largest hunger advocacy organization.
Chef Bayless is a restaurant consultant, teaches authentic Mexican cooking throughout the United States (he is a visiting staff member at the Culinary Institute of America), and leads cooking and cultural tours to Mexico. He and Deann and their daughter live in Chicago.
Did You Know?
Chef Bayless’s cookbook, written with his 15-year-old daughter Lanie and titled Rick and Lanie’s Excellent Kitchen Adventures was nominated for a James Beard Award.
Competing for: Frontera Farmer Foundation