I'm Chef Rick Bayless and I'm hungry. Are you? AMA!
Hello, Reddit. I’m Rick Bayless, father, husband, cookbook author, host of “Mexico: One Plate at a Time” and owner of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco in Chicago.
I’ve also won “Top Chef: Masters” and helped create those oft-Instagrammed, soul-satisfying tortas at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
My next cookbook “More Mexican Everyday” debuts April 27 and I’m especially proud of this one because it’s all about creating fast meals that don’t skimp on deep flavor. You can pre-order the book here
I’ll have about an hour to answer some questions tonight. So go ahead, ask me anything!
Update Thanks everyone for Asking Me Anything. Great questions! We'll have to do this again some time!
Anything with roasted tomatillo sauce or salsa
Hi, Chef! What one culinary skill would you recommend that a new cook learn thoroughly? Particular technique, indispensable sauce, whatever.
Knife skills are number one. Learning how to sear in a hot pan or roast in a hot oven is number two. Balance in flavoring is everything
My wife and I live in Toronto. Whenever we come down to Chicago we take the earliest flight possible (7am) to make it to Xoco for breakfast. Then usually Frontera for lunch or dinner (depends if we get stuck bowling at 10pin for too long).
My question is: the salsa verde that you serve with the empanadas is out of this world good. However, it's not for sale (we've bought all your salsas). Is there a recipe for it, or is that something we'll just have to keep coming back for?
Yes, on my site. The only difference between that one and the bottled version is that the latter is pasteurized. The fresh one is roasted tomatillos, green chile, cilantro, raw onion.
Do people ever say, "Oh my gosh, that's Skip Bayless! Hi Skip Bayless!" And then you just pretend like they didn't mess your name up?
Hello I just started using you taco sauce packets and I am so in love. Thank you.
Is there a dish that you find impossible to make?
Certainly. I love to travel (both in Mexico and other places) and I'm always coming across dishes that I would either not have the ingredients for or the skill to produce. That's the fun of it all. I love learning new things, but if I try and it doesn't have the same impact as the one I tried away from home, I often set it aside. There are just too many great things that I can make (or can figure out how to make well)!
Hi Chef! Given the awful violence of the past 10 years or so, have you ever felt in danger in Mexico? Are there places you just won't go? Should foodies stick to tourist only cities or is it safe to go off the beaten path? Thanks!
Basically, most of Mexico is as safe as anywhere in the US. I still don't feel safe in the border states because of the drug cartels. Unfortunately, they're filtering into places like Michoacan and Guerrero now, so I'd be a little more careful there. Tourist towns are just that and you won't find much culture in them. But places like Puebla, Veracruz, Oaxaca, San Cristobal, Merida, Guanajuato, Morelia are incredible and incredibly safe feeling. Just use the precautions you'd use any time you travel to a large city you don't know.
Hi Chef, I asked René Redzepi this question when he was here yesterday and I want to get your thoughts. What's the best advice you have for someone who wants to quit their day job and go to culinary school?
It depends on your ultimate goal. If it's to cook in a restaurant, make sure you like the restaurant business--work in a restaurant for at least 6 months before you quit that other job. Restaurant work isn't like having a party. You have to love the physicality of the work and you have to love the repetition. If you can derive satisfaction from that, you'll be a good candidate for culinary school and a restaurant career
Chef, I'm actually a big fan, despite the flippancy of my other question.
One of the dishes I've never been able to master is a good mole. Any tips?
Takes time, practice and patience. You have to toast the chiles just right, soak, blend, strain and cook to a paste. That's the most essential part of making a good mole. For a simple, easy-to-master version, I have a Red Chile Peanut Mole in my new book, More Mexican Everyday, that you can cook (and get right) in less than an hour! It's a show-stopper, too.
Why did you choose Chicago? I'm a Chicagoan myself and love visiting your restaurants here.
My wife's family is here and I fell in love with that Midwestern charm.
Chef Bayless, I have two quick questions for you!
I absolutely love your churros and make sure to grab one whenever I'm in town, however where I live, the churros just aren't as quality as yours. Is there a recipe of some sort available?
Would you ever consider opening a business like Eataly but with Mexican food and ingredients?
I would love to do a Mexican Eataly. maybe some day ... Churros are just flour, water, salt and a pinch of sugar. Cooked panade style, cooled and pressed. It's such a heavy dough that you have to have a special device to extrude it. Amazon carries a home model.
I have been to Mexico a lot, mostly Baja. One thing I have noticed is that the beef is cut differently but beyond that it has a deeper flavor than American beef, do you know why?
much of what you're tasting is probably grass fed
The last time I was in Mexico, I bought dessert off of a tiny food cart, and I can't stop thinking about it. The best way I can describe it is that it was a hot, thin, crispy waffle/crepe that was rolled up and had a filling of cheese and nutella. It had a long Mexican name that started with a C, I believe. Any chance you know the name?
Those are marquisetas (known in the square in Merida, Yucatan)! Those have to be one of my favorite dishes on earth!
What is the secret to making good mexican rice?
The right amount of the pureed tomato flavoring, the right amount of liquid for your rice and the rice temperature under your pot.
Hi Chef! 1) What beer do you enjoy most often? 2) What's an inexpensive but delicious summer meal? (I'm on a student's budget!)
I love everything you do!
Grilled farmers market vegetables with Mojo de Ajo and fresh ricotta. If you wanna put a poached egg with it, even better. Cheap and delicious.
I feel like with places like Topolobampo, Casa Enrique, & Empellon helping push a more modern Mexican cuisine approach in the US...we'll eventually see more Mexican "fine dining" establishments popping up.
Do you find it a hard sell to get Mexican cuisine taken more seriously than tacos/burritos, etc.? I'd love to see large, modern, tasting menus done more...but feel Mexican cuisine still has a "stigma" attached to it.
When planning menus, do you feel like you have to "make things more accessible" for the general public & restrain a little?
Any more plans for your empire? I've always been a big fan of what you do. If I make it out to Chicago soon I may hit you guys up for a long stage. :D
You're right: Mexican food still has a ways to go to break free from the tacos/burritos/cheap food stigma. Nonetheless, Topolobampo is our most successful restaurant. The new wave of chefs opening Modern Taquerias isn't really helping ... Cooking is a dialog, so if you speak Spanish to a non-Spanish speaker, you won't get a lot across. I'm always thinking about my menu being accessible in the wording and the way I put it on the plate. If customers feel comfortable with that, they'll likely like the dish. People don't come to Topolo if they're not at least a little adventurous. We're opening a new restaurant on Randolph in the fall!
Hi Chef! Just curious about using dried chiles. I notice in some of your recipes they are just toasted and some are re-hydrated. Some of the ones I buy locally are really dry and hard, is there something specific I should be looking for when buying these? Thanks! (Btw, had my bday dinner at Frontera last year, can't wait to come back!)
The larger dried chiles should be soft (ancho, mulato, pasilla, guajillo). Brittle ones don't have much flavor. Standard procedure for most Mexican sauces made from dried chiles is to toast the cleaned chiles, rehydrate, blend, strain and fry until the consistency of tomato paste.
What's your favorite tequila at the moment....both budget and top shelf?
There are so many (and so many mezcales)! So hard to pick. When I'm in Mexico, where the huge variety of top-shelf tequila isn't always available, I always choose an Herradura reposado.
One of my favorite meals = your chilied shrimp tacos. Any tips for making corn tortillas at home? I wish I had bought a tortilla press when I was in Mexico..!
you need a tortilla press! And make sure that the dough is so soft you almost can't work with it.
any recommendations for a good one ?
Pretty much any one that's made of cast iron
What are some of the most important base recipes for a chef to learn?
Funny you should ask. The first chapter of More Mexican Everyday (publication date is April 27) is dedicated to the dozen or so things I think you should know by heart. Roast tomatillo sauce, mole, roasted tomato-serrano sauce, black bean braise ...
I've been intrigued by some of the mezcal cocktails recently added to your menu. Can you talk about the importance of tequila and mezcal to Mexican cuisine?
Mezcal is like the original spirit they made in the town of Tequila, rustic, complex, nuanced. Not that you can't find those characteristics in good tequila, but mezcal offers us something different, more robust, earthier and pretty darn exciting
Hey Rick, I'm a big fan of yours any your show. I know there are a lot of episodes on the live well network website(I've seen them all), but I wish there was a service where I could stream all of them or buy seasons from the Apple Store. Have you given that any thought? Also, what are the best resources about growing produce in areas with limited space? Thanks.
Working on it, but ... (trumpets sound) ... we're streaming all of Season 9 (Oaxaca) on our site now! Stay tuned for more updates.
Hey Rick...thanks for doing this. Did you know what the secret ingredient was on Iron Chef America? How do the chefs always seem prepared for it in one way or another? Do you have time to plan that wd dont see on the final televised product? (I loved you stopping to beg for Alton Brown to attempt pronouncing a little better).
My ingredient was bison. You're given a wide variety of possibilities that it could be (just to help you plan and narrow things down), but you have to be prepared to go lots of different ways. You don't know what it's going to be until they unveil it.
Hi, Chef Bayless! I am an Illinoisan and a huge fan! What is the best-tasting, most elegant-looking Mexican dish that I can make for a group of friends on my meager grad school budget?
pork tinga in a slow-cooker
Rick I asked you for an AMA via Twitter about 6 months ago! So happy you decided to do it! When I started making food from "Mexican Everyday", my Latino husband got starry-eyed. It was great.
I know you have a focus on local, in-season food. I live fairly far north, and many of the foods that make Mexican food so great, like tomatillos, cilantro, and fresh tomatoes, are not available locally in the winter - and grilling is, at best, challenging. I'd love your advice for making awesome Mexican food when traditional fresh ingredients are limited by the weather or grocery store availability?
We freeze 30,000 pounds of tomatoes from our local farmers every years to get us through the winter. Ditto (but less) tomatillos. When cooking at home, I often use canned fire-roasted tomatoes for cooked sauces in the winter. Tomatillos are always available in the markets in Chicago all winter, as is cilantro.
Hi, Chef! Big fan! How would you describe the difference between authentic Mexican cuisine and Tex-Mex?
Tex-Mex is simpler than the traditional cuisines of Mexico. There's just more variety in central and southern Mexico. The flavors tend to be lighter, too, except for the moles which are more complex than most Tex-Mex.
Chef, you have been inspiring me for years! I would like to what chef inspired you the most as a young chef, mainly during your early apprenticing years?
Honestly, it was Alice Waters because she was so dedicated to honest food that was made from local ingredients.
As I have all of your cookbooks, what other Mexican cuisine cookbooks do you reccomend?
Anything by Diana Kennedy, Zarela Martinez' Veracruz cookbook. Seasons of My Heart by Susana Trilling. Lots of the books by Patricia Quintana. I'm probably forgetting a whole host of them.
Hey Rick. I am a gringo from Texas. I really appreciate your love and respect for the Mexican culture and food. It would take me a long time to explain why, but I share this feeling. You have a gentle demeanor and good communication skills. What connected you to Mexican culture and cuisine in the first place?
The generosity of spirit you find everywhere in Mexico. And the vibrancy of the food.
What is something about you as a chef that you feel you need to improve on?
I need to become a better butcher, learning better how to break down whole animals.
Hi Chef Bayless! What impact do you think cannabis will have on culinary world?
It will make our diners hungrier
Carnitas Don Pedro, Carnitas Uruapan, Birrieria Zaragoza, Birrieria Ocotlan, Cemitas Puebla, among many others
Hey Chef! So I'm constantly cooking for myself and am always looking for new recipes. I probably eat chicken more than anything. What is your favorite dish to prepare just with chicken breast and everyday household ingredients?
I'm not a huge fan of chicken breasts, but if that's what I was cooking, I'd do them in a roasted tomatillo sauce with a little crema in it
Man have I been waiting for this opportunity, I absolutely LOVE your work. I have two questions Ive always kinda wondered.
1)What is your daily routine on a day off?
2)What are your plans for retirement? (or do you love what you do so much that retirement is a word that doesnt exist! :) )
1) since I work nights, I relish a little down time at home and finally getting to see friends. I always make Sunday brunch. I love live theater, so I go as much as I can. 2) what is retirement?
What exactly is in the Ahogada torta that makes me crave it every single day?!
pork tomato broth arbol chile hot sauce good bread!
Spring is coming and summer is around the corner...what are your favorite seasonal dishes? Obviously using fresh local ingredients. :-)
We have a green garlic mojo de ago on the menu with grilled chicken right now and I am totally in love with it. Asparagus is in next week. Maybe you saw the book give-away Twitter contest we ran last week with the asparagus recipe from More Mexican Everyday. The recipe is on our site. Super-good.
Chef, big fan and I am in Chicago in a couple weeks and hope to finally eat at Frontera when I am there!! Question I have for you, what is Frontera Group doing to help local farmers in Mexico with preserving genetic diversity in crops such as corn? (i.e., seed saving) My understanding is that the big agrochemical companies are making inroads in Mexico and that there is a danger that unique local varieties may be in danger.
We are working with a fellow to bring in heirloom corn to the US for us to make tortillas from. However, it's a long haul. We work with beans from the Xoxoc project in Hidalgo
How important do you think authenticity is in preparation of Mexican food? Is authentic preparation more important than authentic ingredients? What is the best place to make shortcuts when preparing Mexican food at home?
What is your favorite Mexican restaurant?
What is your favorite Mexican dish?
What dish would you suggest recommending to friends who supposedly don't like Mexican food?
I think the word authenticity means so many different things to so many different people. Does it mean making something exactly like you saw someone make it in another country? Wouldn't that mean bringing their stove and pots and pans and ingredients back with you? Wouldn't it mean having the same people around the table, because food always tastes different in different contexts. I think authenticity is difficult. So for me, it means respect for culture and cooking that tastes genuine. However you achieve that.
Hey Rick. Thanks for autographing my cookbook last year in Oklahoma City when you were in town for the Chamber of Commerce event.
My question to you is:
What is your opinion of your hometown's transformation in the past twenty years? Overall and culinarily speaking.
Gracias por todo.
So much great food! I used to think only barbecue when I returned to OKC. How I have a huge host of options. Incredible.
Hi Chef! Huge fan! Do your yoga poses make your food taste better?
Yes, they give me more clarity about what really tastes good
What is your favorite restaurant in Playa del Carmen?
Haven't been in a while, so I hesitate to recommend
Hi, Rick! What chilli plants should I be growing in my garden to make a good molè? I know there are many kinds of molè, so give me your favorite!
Growing the kinds of chiles used in mole are difficult for home gardeners. You need ancho, mulato and pasilla (at least), they have to grow well in your climate and you have to be skilled at drying them just right. Better to buy them at a Mexican grocery store.
Long time fan since I stumbled across your 1979 PBS show, and was completely mesmerized by that mustache, dad glasses, and perfect pronunciation of Mexican dishes and ingredients, and still watching you to this day!
Question: what is a guilty pleasure of yours? Not something I can find online like reading, yoga, doing the splits, or hanging with Wilco, but something else us real fans would totally eat up (I meant that word placement).
fried dough from any culture. It renders me weak at the knees
Thanks Chef Rick for doing this...besides yourself ;) , who is your favorite "Top Chef"?
aw, come on, I can't pick just one (think of all the enemies I'd make). Plus, every chef has strengths and weaknesses ...
Hi Rick! Can you tell us a little bit about your weightlifting routine?
I used to do weights for years, then my yoga practice ramped up to include so much wonderfully challenging arm balances and other dynamic stuff that I lost interest in the weighs. It's been yoga every day for the last three years.
What is your favorite part of your job? The TV Show, live demos or cooking in house? Do you ever come out and talk to the guests at the restaurant?
I have really varied interests. At heart I'm a restaurant chef. But I love writing books, doing the television series and doing public demos, too. I don't want to give up any of it.
Has anything scary every happened while traveling in Mexico?
Thank you for the excellent recipes! I love you passion for authentic Mexican Cuisine.
What would be the one dish that you believe people from outside of Mexico should try?
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