Chef & Agricultural Activist
Most people know Rick Bayless from winning the title of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, beating out the French and Italian chefs with his authentic Mexican cuisine. His highly rated PBS television series, Mexico–One Plate at a Time, is in its ninth season and is broadcast nationally. In 2012, Bayless was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Best Culinary Host.
Bayless has eight cookbooks. His second book, Mexican Kitchen, won the Julia Child IACP Cookbook of the Year award in 1996, and his fourth book, Mexico–One Plate at a Time, won the James Beard Best International Cookbook of the Year award in 2001. Fiesta at Rick’s spent a number of weeks on The New York Times best seller list.
Bayless’ side-by-side award-winning restaurants are in Chicago. The casual Frontera Grill was founded in 1987 and received the James Beard Foundation’s highest award, Outstanding Restaurant, in 2007. The four-star Topolobampo served its first meals in 1991. And the wildly popular, LEED GOLD-certified, fast-casual Xoco has been around since 2009, serving wood-oven tortas, steaming caldos, golden churros and bean-to-cup Mexican hot chocolate. His quick-service Tortas Frontera have changed the face of food service at O’Hare International Airport, while Frontera Fresco has brought Frontera flavors to several Macy’s stores and Northwestern University. His award-winning Frontera line of salsas, cooking sauces and organic chips can be found coast-to-coast.
Bayless and his staff established the Frontera Farmer Foundation in 2003 to support small Midwestern farms. Each year, grants are awarded to farmers for capital improvements to their family farms, encouraging greater production and profitability. To date, the Foundation has awarded $1.2 million to 71 farms. In 2007, Bayless and his team launched the Frontera Scholarship, a full-tuition scholarship that sends a Mexican-American Chicago Public School student to Kendall College to study culinary arts. In 2007, Bayless was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his many philanthropic endeavors.
Bayless has received a great number of James Beard Award nominations in many categories, and he has won six: Midwest Chef of the Year, National Chef of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, Who’s Who of American Food and Drink, and two for his cookbooks.
The Government of Mexico has bestowed on Bayless the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle – the highest decoration bestowed on foreigners whose work has benefitted Mexico and its people.
Recently, Bayless finished a sold-out five-week run on stage at Lookingglass Theatre, where he created Cascabel – offering theater goers the story of a meal, told through flavor, memory, song, dance and amazing physical feats.