Chicago-based celebrity chef Rick Bayless (of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo, Xoco, Tortas Frontera, and Red O) recently headlined as the 'ambassador' of Food & Wine's festival in Xtapa-Zihuatanejo, Mexico—an obvious choice, given his outspoken love for all things Mexican. (To boot: Last week the 4/1 joke that he was opening a restaurant there called Xipe nearly had us fooled.) The Feast trailed him south of the border for our latest Sin City, below.
What do you crave most?
Doughnuts. Any kind of fried dough basically, from whatever culture, I don't care.
Do you know your limits?
Yes. I've worked really hard to figure that out.
What won't you share?
Doughnuts. I really am thinking about opening up a doughnut shop [in Chicago], but somebody else just opened one [near Frontera—we think he's talking about The Doughnut Vault]. But I can open one up in LA.
What makes you angry?
In the kitchen: When people don't respect all of the effort that the grower/producer has put into beautiful food, and they don't treat it well. They overcook it, they crush it, they don't store it well. [This is something Bayless really takes to heart. As Season 1 winner of Top Chef Masters he competed for the Frontera Farmer Foundation which has been providing monetary support to small Midwestern farms since 2003, and now he's teaming up with a program called Seeds of Change to start organic gardens from coast to coast.]
If you were to win a medal tomorrow, what would it be for?
Creating community. I love the fact that our restaurant is run in a cooperative way. It's got its own community, and that community interacts a lot with our community in Chicago, and we try to do our best to give back and make Chicago a better place.
What great idea should have been yours?
Oh, wow. I guess it would have to be the Mexican lime squeezer, because it's the one piece of equipment that I'm always touting.
What has been on your to-do list for the longest time?
Opening a cooking school. I don't know where, that's the problem. I love cooking in Mexico—maybe it needs to have two campuses. One in the states and one in Mexico... We have to have campuses everywhere.
Editor's Note: This interview is an abridged transcript of a video Q&A that could not be posted due to audio issues. [The Feast]