Five Questions for Rick Bayless

Chef Rick Bayless is a very busy man. Not only is he an award winning chef, responsible for Chicago’s Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, Mr. Bayless also teaches, works actively with many non-profit organizations (including his own Frontera Farmer Foundation), and conducts instructional cooking and cultural tours. Along with making personal appearances, he writes for many well known commercial publications (including being a contributing editor for Saveur), authors bestselling cookbooks, and hosts a successful television series. Four seasons of Mexico: One Plate at a Time has continued to take television viewers to exotic locations with Mr. Bayless, as he provides cooking instruction, cultural education, and brief history lessons on the origins of various ingredients and dishes in a casual and entertaining style. Mr. Bayless is the celebrity representative for gourmet Mexican cuisine.

Frontera Grill opened in 1987, followed by the more upscale Topolobampo, which opened in 1989. Both award-winning Chicago restaurants are extremely popular and very successful, continually receiving extraordinarily positive reviews from local and national media. Frontera Fresco is the newest restaurant creation from Frontera Kitchens. Located at Marshall Field’s on State Street in downtown Chicago, Frontera Fresco offers fresh, fast, authentic Mexican food, with menu items modestly priced at $7.50 or less.Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½

In addition to providing current information for the restaurants, Mr. Bayless’ many activities, and Frontera Shopping, the website for Frontera Kitchens is filled with an abundance of extremely useful resources and information. On the site, Mr. Bayless offers a brief primer for maintaining a healthy lifestyle, useful tips for home gardening, and helpful suggestions for home cooking and entertaining. Sources are also provided for creating Mexican style home decor, along with information for travel planning. There is even an “Ask Rick” section for public questions and answers.

On the subject of questions, we decided to ask Mr. Bayless 5 questions of our own:

1. What would you consider to be the most difficult/challenging ingredient used in your cooking?

Using dried chiles is usually the most intimidating to people. I try to demystify using chiles in my books, but I think that most people are still a little wary of buying and using them in Mexican cooking.

2. What’s new with the Frontera Farmer Foundation and the upcoming Festival of the One True Taste?

It’s this Sunday!Ã?¯Ã?¿Ã?½ [June 11, 2006] We are all busy putting our event together. We really look forward to raising funds for our farmers. To date we have given out a whopping $300,000 for capital improvement grants!

3. Is there a future possibility of Frontera Fresco type establishments being franchised across the US?

Yes, we are looking into that. We are finding that our Fresco here at Marshall Fields is doing quite well and we would like to expand.

4. When you’re not enjoying Mexican cuisine, what is your next favorite type of food?

Simple – something on the grill or from my garden.

5. Any one-word advice or suggestion for aspiring chefs?

We are sincerely appreciative for Mr. Bayless taking the time to answer 5 questions for Paper Palate, despite his extremely busy schedule.

From the website: “The Frontera Farmer Foundation is committed to promoting small, sustainable farms serving the Chicago area, by providing them with capital development grants. The Foundation envisions a year-round interchange between sustainable farmers and consumers, including farmers market patrons and chefs, in which the seasonal products of local agriculture provide the foundation for regional cuisine and the assurance of a sustainable future. The Frontera Farmer Foundation was established in 2003 to attract support for small Midwestern farms.”

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