Rick Bayless (born November 23, 1953)[1] is an American chef and restaurateur who specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine with modern interpretations. He is widely known for his PBS series Mexico: One Plate at a Time.

Rick Bayless
RickBayless in SanFrancisco.jpg
Chef Rick Bayless giving a cooking demonstration at Macy's in downtown San Francisco in January 2008.
Born (1953-11-23) November 23, 1953 (age 65)
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States
EducationUniversity of Oklahoma (B.A.)
University of Michigan (doctoral work, Anthropological Linguistics)
ChildrenLanie Ann Bayless Sullivan
Culinary career
Cooking styleMexican cuisine

Early life and educationEdit

Bayless was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, into a family of restaurateurs and grocers specializing in the local barbecue. He is the younger brother of sports journalist and television personality, Skip Bayless. Having begun his culinary training as a youth, Bayless broadened his interests to include regional Mexican cooking as an undergraduate student of Spanish and Latin American culture. After finishing his undergraduate education at the University of Oklahoma, he did doctoral work in anthropological linguistics at the University of Michigan and, from 1980 to 1986, lived in Mexico with his wife, Deann, writing his first book, Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico.[2]

Professional careerEdit

After hosting the 26-part PBS television series Cooking Mexican in 1978–1979, Bayless dedicated over six years to culinary research in Mexico, culminating in 1987 with the publication of his Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico, which Craig Claiborne described as "the greatest contribution to the Mexican table imaginable." Bayless continues to host his PBS television series, Mexico: One Plate at a Time, now entering Season 11, produced entirely on the Yucatán Peninsula.[3]

Before opening his own restaurant, Bayless began his professional career in 1980 as the executive chef at Lopez y Gonzalez, in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. In 1987 Bayless and his wife Deann opened Frontera Grill in Chicago, Illinois, specializing in contemporary regional Mexican cuisine, with special emphasis on the varied cuisines of the Oaxaca region. In 1989 Rick and Deann opened Topolobampo, one of Chicago's first fine-dining Mexican restaurants.[4] As of 2019, Topolobampo has 1 Michelin star.[5]

In 1995, Rick and partners started the Frontera Foods line of prepared food products. Frontera Foods was sold to ConAgra Foods in 2016. Bayless remains involved as a product-development advisor to the brand. The 'Frontera' restaurants were not included in the deal.[6]

He was one of the founding members of Chefs Collaborative, in support of environmentally sound agricultural practices and is active in Share Our Strength, the nation's largest hunger advocacy organization. Often his TV shows emphasize responsible use of foodstuffs with focus on sustainable farming and cooking.

Rick Bayless is a restaurant consultant and 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. Fluent in Spanish, Bayless favors coastal (seafood) fare, and dishes that feature very traditional Mexican and pre-Columbian Incan, Mayan and Aztecan ingredients native to Mexico like chocolate, peppers, and vanilla bean.

Bayless has written several cookbooks on the subject of traditional Mexican fare, including the best-selling Mexico: One Plate at a Time. He has also contributed to a number of magazines.

Bayless and his staff also began the Frontera Farmer Foundation[7] in 2003. This foundation was set up to support Chicago-area local farmers by offering capital improvement grants. As of 2007, more than $400,000 has been given to local family farms.

In 2005, Bayless competed on Iron Chef America and lost by one point to Iron Chef Bobby Flay on what was the first broadcast episode of season 1, with American bison meat as the secret ingredient.

In December 2007, Bayless opened Frontera Fresco restaurant in San Francisco.[8]

Bayless appeared as a guest judge in episode 3 of Season 4's Top Chef, judging both the quickfire and elimination challenges. He later went on to become a contestant in episode 3 of the first season of Top Chef Masters, winning that episode and advancing to the Champion's round. In the championship round he won the title of Top Chef Master on August 19, 2009.

In 2008, Bayless was widely considered to be a serious contender for the position of White House Executive Chef under the administration of Barack Obama.[9]

In 2010, after having spent significant time at local Mexican dining spots, Bayless made his LA debut running the kitchen at the Red O.[10]

Bayless was guest chef for the May 19, 2010 White House state dinner honoring Mexican President Felipe Calderón and his wife Margarita Zavala.[11][12][13]

In 2012, Bayless ventured into the world of theatre, partnering with Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago to put on the play "Rick Bayless in Cascabel", which Bayless created along with Tony Hernandez and Heidi Stillman. The show opened on March 21, 2012 to favorable reviews and ran through April 29.[14][15]

Also in 2012, Rick Bayless secured his first Daytime Emmy Nomination for Outstanding Lifestyle/Culinary Host for his work on Season 8 of Mexico: One Plate at a Time.

Rick Bayless' name was again brought up on air during the First Take segment where his brother, Skip Bayless, spoke of him as a self-made man who never worked for another boss.

Current restaurantsEdit

  • Frontera Grill (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Topolobampo (Chicago, Illinois) - 1 Michelin star as of the 2015 guide
  • XOCO (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Frontera Fresco (3 locations in Illinois)
  • Tortas Frontera (O'Hare International Airport - Chicago, Illinois; University of Pennsylvania - Philadelphia) - co-owned with Jollibee Foods Corporation and other shareholders.[16]
  • Red O (3 locations in California)
  • Lena Brava (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Cruz Blanca Brewery & Taqueria (Chicago, Illinois)
  • Frontera Cocina (Lake Buena Vista, Florida)
  • Bar Sótano (Chicago, Illinois)

Awards and accoladesEdit

  • Best New Chef of 1988, Food and Wine magazine
  • Best American Chef: Midwest 1991, James Beard Foundation
  • National Chef of the Year 1995, James Beard Foundation
  • Outstanding Chef 1995, James Beard Foundation for Frontera Grill/Topolombampo
  • Chef of the Year 1995, International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP)
  • Cookbook of the Year, 1996, IACP, for Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen
  • Cookbook of the Year, 1996, National Julia Child Cookbook Awards, for Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen
  • Cookbook of the Year, 1996, Chicago Tribune, for Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen
  • Humanitarian of the year 1998, James Beard Foundation
  • Cookbook of the Year in 2001, James Beard Foundation, for Mexico: One Plate at a Time
  • Best Chef Midwest (CHICAGO) of 2002, James Beard Foundation
  • Who's Who of American Food and Drink
  • Humanitarian of the Year IACP 2007
  • Frontera Grill won Outstanding Restaurant from the James Beard Foundation 2007
  • Winner, Top Chef Masters Season 1 on Bravo Cable Network, September 2009
  • Recipient, 2011 Golden Beet Award from The Illinois Stewardship Alliance, in the category "Community Food Projects," for his work with the Frontera Farmer Foundation and for his support of local and sustainable agriculture.[17]
  • Frontera Grill was ranked the third-best casual dining restaurant in the world by the International Herald Tribune[18]
  • Insignia of the Order of the Aztec Eagle, 2012[19]
  • Topolobampo won Outstanding Restaurant from the James Beard Foundation 2017[20]


  • Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico (1987)
  • Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen: Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine (1996)
  • Salsas That Cook : Using Classic Salsas To Enliven Our Favorite Dishes (1998)
  • Mexico: One Plate at a Time (book) (2000)
  • Mexico: One Plate at a Time (television series) (2003–present)
  • Rick and Lanie's Excellent Kitchen Adventures (2004)
  • Mexican Everyday (2005)
  • Fiesta at Rick's: Fabulous Food for Great Times with Friends (2010)
  • Frontera: Margaritas, Guacamoles, and Snacks (2012)
  • More Mexican Everyday (2015)


  1. ^ "''Rick Bayless: winning awards, accolades and appetites - Interview'' by Carolyn Walkup". Findarticles.com. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  2. ^ Rick Bayless biography Archived 2009-03-03 at the Wayback Machine - Frontera website
  3. ^ http://www.rickbayless.com/tv-books/mexico-one-plate-at-a-time-season-11/
  4. ^ Vettel, Phil. "Four stars: Topolobampo is one of Chicago's finest restaurants". chicagotribune.com. Retrieved 2018-12-23.
  5. ^ "Topolobampo – a MICHELIN Guide Restaurant in Chicago". MICHELIN Guide. Retrieved 2019-08-02.
  6. ^ Channick, Robert (September 26, 2016). "Rick Bayless' Frontera Foods sold to ConAgra; chef's brand staying in Chicago". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved October 26, 2016.
  7. ^ "About Frontera Farmer Foundation: Frontera Farmer Foundation - Rick Bayless | Frontera". Rick Bayless. Archived from the original on March 19, 2012. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  8. ^ "Frontera Fresco". Frontera Fresco. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  9. ^ Piazza, Jo, "Chef Executive: Three cooks in the running for Obama's top White House kitchen post", New York Daily News, Sunday, November 9, 2008.
  10. ^ Odell, Kat (January 5, 2010). "Confirmed: Rick Bayless Coming to LA! Heading Kitchen At Both Forthcoming Red Onions". Eater.com. Archived from the original on June 16, 2010.
  11. ^ "Rick Bayless brings Mexico to the White House kitchen, by way of Chicago" Archived May 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine (Christian Science Monitor, May 19, 2010)
  12. ^ State dinner chef tweets about 'day of creation' (AP, May 19, 2010) Archived May 20, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ "Rick Bayless' recipe for state dinner black mole" (AP, May 19, 2010)
  14. ^ "Rick Bayless in Cascabel | Lookingglass Theatre Company". Lookingglasstheatre.org. Archived from the original on 2012-02-08. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
  15. ^ "Lookingglass Theatre Extends CASCABEL Through April 29". Broadway World. Retrieved April 4, 2012.
  16. ^ Klein, Danny (7 September 2018). "Jollibee Grabs 47 Percent Stake in Tortas Frontera". QSR Magazine. Retrieved 30 December 2018.
  17. ^ "Golden Beet Award winners announced" (Chicago Tribune, April 14, 2011)
  18. ^ Wells, Patricia (January 17, 1994). "The Top Ten". International Herald Tribune. Retrieved April 3, 2012.
  19. ^ [1]
  20. ^ [2]

External linksEdit