Rick Bayless


October 5, 2008 · Can we learn anything about the presidential candidates from what they like to eat? As a public service, NPR asked some of their favorite chefs to teach you how to cook the kind of food that graces the candidates’ plates when they eat out.When Sen. Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, want a special night out in Chicago, they often head for the award-winning Mexican restaurant Topolobampo. But don’t equate the word “Mexican” with burritos and refried beans.

Chef Rick Bayless founded “Topolo,” as locals call it, almost 20 years ago to prove to Americans that genuine Mexican cooking can be as sophisticated as French and Italian.

In fact, the dishes you might find on the menu on a typical night — perhaps lobster napped with a sauce of arbol and chipotle chilies, or seared, line-caught marlin in a toasted ancho chili crust — might be too elaborate to make easily at home. Instead, Bayless urges you to try his simple recipe for an authentic Mexican street food: skirt steak tacos with smoky guacamole.

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

NPR tracked down Barack Obama’s favorite Chicago restaurant today and interviewed the owner/chef.

The restaurant is Topolobampo, which chef Rick Bayless opened in 1989 after opening Frontera Grill two years earlier. Before getting into the restaurant business, Bayless was a PhD student in anthropological linguistics. His research took him to Mexico. He realized he was more interested in the food than anything else about Mexican culture, so he dropped out of his program to become a full-time chef.

Bayless’ restaurants, according to NPR, are the first in America to feature gourmet Mexican cooking. Maybe. I was eating gourmet Mexican fare at restaurants in which Diana Kennedy was involved in Austin and Houston just over 20 years ago. But Bayless, who has written a handful of cookbooks, is definitely among the pioneers.

NPR poses the question whether we can conclude anything about Obama because of what he likes to eat. They don’t really answer the question, but Bayless does note that Obama and wife Michelle experiment with the menu, take their time eating and have recently moved to a less conspicuous table in the rear of the restaurant. Undoubtedly, those who revile Obama as an elitist for his arugula consumption will likewise wonder why he’s not content with enchiladas and chimichangas.


The Bottom Line:

If you don’t live near a Frontera restaurant, move.


4 Responses to “Rick Bayless”

  1. 1 boatdog
    November 14, 2008 at 11:13 am

    Mexican American meets L.A. in a Tijuana taxi:

    We ate here when we were in Philadelphia:


  2. 2 O3
    November 14, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    Rick has been Althea and my favorite cooking show for years. I really love Season 5 ,favorite episode is:

    Episode 1: Eat, Drink and Be Merida

    At one time, the henequen trade made Merida, the capital of the Yucatan, one of the richest cities in the world. Today, its lovely white stuccoed buildings remind us of its opulent past. A horse and carriage ride down the Paseo Montejo will help you understand why Merida was once known as “The Paris of Mexico.” Rick takes us on a journey through the Merida market stalls for a look at the blending of Mayan traditions with the Spanish influences. Dishes such as Sikil Pak, a pumpkinseed dip with habanero is totally Mayan, yet still part of Merida’s meals today. The market’s meat stalls jump-start Rick’s surprising roller coaster ride through Merida’s food history from simple pork Picadillo to the baroque Queso Relleno (stuffed cheese) found in all the classic Yucatan restaurants. Along the way, we explore the Lebanese influence on this colonial city where thousands of locals dance in the town square nearly every night of the week.

  3. 3 O3
    November 15, 2008 at 12:57 am

    p.s. Elvez look’s interesting, but how about going with Al and I to “El Toro Loco”, here in town?

  4. 4 boatdog
    November 15, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    …never heard of it. I’m ready!

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1984 Computer portrait from State Fair

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