Rick Bayless is an award-winning chef, restaurateur and cookbook author, and humanitarian known for his contributions to popularizing Mexican cuisine in the United States.
A Chef's Path
Ever seen a kid in a candy store? Their excitement pales next to a chef in a market. An early morning trek to the Central de Abastos, one of the world's largest markets, with Rick Bayless and Chef Eduardo "Lalo" Garcia, proves exhilarating. Neither chef can talk fast enough about all the dishes they want to make from the mind-boggling stacks of nopales, the fragrant herbs, the crisp greens, the juicy pitayas and mangos. Chef Lalo's path to his wildly popular Maximo Bistrot in Mexico City includes migrant work on produce farms and stints in fine-dining establishments in Atlanta and New York City. Today, his suckling pig carnitas have a massive following. Lucky for us, he and Rick cook the dish in his restaurant kitchen. Rick and Chef Enrique Olvera, owner of Pujol and arguably Mexico's top chef, talk about the evolution of Mexican food and the challenge to change people's perception of the cuisine. At home, Rick coaxes amazing flavors from humble tomatillos, pork and potatoes.
"Eat your veggies" - it's a line children from Mexico to Morocco hear from their parents. In this episode, we meet a pair of chefs who took that advice seriously. As Rick discovers, chefs Israel Montero and Alfredo Chaves of Kaah Siis Restaurant aren't just eating their vegetables, nor just cooking them - they're growing them at Xochimilco, Mexico City's ancient floating gardens. The chefs give Rick a tour of the chinampas, small man-made islands amongst the canals, where some of the city's chefs are growing organic and specialty produce. They talk about sustainability, the future of organic, and, of course, kale. Back in Chicago, Rick takes us to the closest thing he has to Xochimilco: Green City Market, where he visits his favorite vendors and takes their wares home for a taco party.
Under The Influence (Of Tacos)
If there's a face of Mexico City's restaurant scene, it might be Jorge Vallejo's. (Of course, it may also be Enrique Olvera's, or Gabrielle Camara's ... who's counting?). Vallejo's cooking, found at his intimate restaurant Quintonil, has long been an inspiration for Rick and Deann. But what inspires Jorge? What propels him to put together dishes such as his stunning mole with beef tongue? In one word: Tacos. So in this episode, Rick follows Jorge on a taco tour, from the simple vegetable preparations at Tacos Gus to the super-rich and satisfying suadero-style tacos at Taqueria Los Cocuyos. Back in Chicago, Rick makes his own amazing tacos at home, complete with homemade tortillas.
Mexico: It's (A) Wine Country
Rick's got nothing against cerveza and margaritas, but in this episode he explores another side of Mexican drinking: Wine. Mexican wine. And no, that's not a misnomer. In fact, the burgeoning craft of Mexican wine is growing, often in unusual places. Marvin Nahmias and partners have transformed a high-rise rooftop in Mexico City into a small vineyard and winemaking facility; after they give Rick a tour, they give him the keys to the kitchen. The winery's brick ovens and grills speak to Rick's inner pit master, so at the San Juan Market, Rick selects cabrito to cook over hardwood, tender chayote to roast in the wood oven for tacos and eggplant to char into a salsa. Salud!
Artisanal Bread In Tortilla Land
In the land of the tortilla, bread can often get overlooked. But if Chef Elena Reygadas has anything to say about it, bread will soon rise as an important player in Mexican cuisine. She certainly has the right tools to effect change: At her bakery, Rosetta Panaderia, she crafts transcendent versions of Mexico's classic pan de pulque (pulque bread) and sugary-topped conchas. Rick swoons over these treats and engages Reygadas in a conversation about their shared philosophies of cooking and building community. We get a sneak peak at Elena's process for conchas before Rick teaches us his foolproof method at home. Then, it's sandwich time: Rick visits Eno, Chef Enrique Olvera's casual spot that serves tuna and chicken milanesa tortas in homemade bollilo rolls. Then we head back to Chicago, where Rick makes a torta at his casual spot, Xoco.
Shaking Up The Margarita
The Mercado Lazaro Cardenas is pretty standard as far as markets in Mexico City go. But turn one corner and suddenly you're in a different world: The world of coffee geeks, of which Rick is a proud citizen. The Passmar Cafe Finos stall brews espresso with natillas and cappuccino with blue curacao using unique brewing methods and award-winning baristas, and Rick geeks out in the best possible (caffeinated) way. Fully charged on caffeine, Rick's ready for a cocktail. So he pays a visit to mixologist Joseph Mortera, who takes Rick through a couple of his delicious creations including a mescal cocktail made with fresh hoja santa leaves and absinthe. Next up: Ricardo Nava, a bartender at Polanco's sleek bar Limantour, who shakes up his margarita by using mescal, pineapple juice and hot chile. Lucky for us, Rick makes cocktails with herbs from his garden plus some very tasty snacks in his home kitchen.
How to Feed A City
Chef Edgar Nunez wants to change the world. Like Rick, Edgar believes everyone should have access to fresh, local food; he believes Mexican chefs should embrace their own cuisine; and he believes in mentoring the younger generation. Rick and Edgar strategize over a meal of duck carnitas with mole negro at Sud 777, Edgar's strikingly beautiful fine dining Mexico City restaurant. Then they take it to the streets where Edgar's mission continues via food trucks that serve fresh, affordable tacos, tostadas and caldos to all manner of customers. At home, Rick shares his tips and recipes for a stress-free tostada party - including great guacamole - sure to change your world.
A Passion for Cheese
Carlos Yescas is a cheesehead on a mission: Put the fine, outstanding artisanal cheeses of Mexico on everyone's radar screen. Yescas scours the country for the best cheese producers; then, he scours Mexico City's best restaurants for chefs that will use those cheeses on their menus. One chef he's had success with is Jorge Vallejo, owner of Quintonil, who happily uses a super-rich doble crema cheese from Chiapas to make his mother's version of huazontles, and a tangy, bouncy quesillo from Chiapas for an elegant cheese soup. Luckily for the residents of DF, these cheeses can now be found at Carlos's stall, Lactography, in the sleek new Mercado Roma. Lucky Rick gets to sample the wares before heading home to Chicago, where he teaches us how easy it is to make whole milk ricotta.
Market Inspirations, Local Genius
Everywhere Rick goes, he asks chefs about Mexico's up-and-coming talent. These days, Mexico City's chefs all have the same answer: Pablo Salas. The odd thing? Salas doesn't work in Mexico City - his restaurant, Amaranta, is in Toluca, about an hour's drive away. Undaunted by the trip, Rick meets Pablo at the Santiago Tianguistengo Market to get a look at the traditions that inspire Pablo's modern Mexiquense cooking - from the myriad of chorizo choices to the pasilla chiles and vegetables. The chefs also visit a local carniceria for a peek at Toluca's famed chorizo. In the Amaranta kitchens, Pablo shows us the simple tricks to his favorite mole with oxtail. At home, Rick makes an easy version of chorizo to use in crispy potato sopes.
Mexican Chocolate: The Next Chapter
Mexico and chocolate go together like salsa and chips. But if you hear "Mexican chocolate" and think of something to dip churros into, you're only getting a part of the story. A few Mexico City chocolatiers see more potential for Mexican chocolate - they see single-origin chocolate bars, beautiful hand-formed truffles, even ambitious sculptures made of the stuff. Hector Galvan of La Casa Tropical talks with Rick about the cultural importance of chocolate in Mexico and why he is working so diligently to save ancient varieties of cacao. And pastry chef Jose Ramon Castillo - proprietor of DF's hippest chocolate shop, Que Bo! - shows how he creates some of Mexico's finest chocolates, from bonbons to beverages. At home, Rick puts Mexican chocolate to work in a chocolate cocktail, Mexican truffles and a stunning chocolate-mesquite cake.
Building a World-Class Cuisine Starts with a Sound Foundation
As the restaurant scene in Mexico City has exploded, so, too, have the culinary schools. Rick takes us to the Coronado Cooking School where the mission is to educate the next generation of chefs. Rick talks with students in the traditional Mexican kitchen classroom as they make a pipian sauce for shrimp. The school's outdoor live-fire kitchen includes tortilla lessons. In the "Dave" Creative Kitchen we see a beautiful presentation of pork loin with vegetables and huaximole. Coronado's students also help run Raiz, one of Mexico City's top destination restaurants. Chef Arturo Fernandez guides them on a path that includes new tricks and techniques, but with the soul of his aunt's home-style tongue in caper sauce. Rick, a consummate and patient teacher, hosts culinary students in the Frontera Test Kitchens to create a memorable meal that ends with the classic crepas con cajeta dessert.
It All Begins with Beans
Chefs can get excited over the littlest thing. For Josefina Santacruz, that thing is beans. She believes every cook should know how to cook beans and rice before venturing any further in Mexican cuisine. For an example of beans done right, Rick and Josefina head to Nico's Restaurant, which has been cooking perfect beans since 1957; their bean soup proves a thing of beauty. Rick and Josefina likewise admire the perfect barbacoa made daily by Chef Moises Rodriguez Vargas of Hidalguense restaurant in Mexico City. He shares his careful preparation of this classic dish with Rick and Josefina at his home. At Yuban, in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, young Chef Paloma Ortiz respects the cuisine of Oaxaca while adding her personal flourishes. In Chicago, Rick steps us through a simple barbacoa sure to inspire all cooks.
The Hunt for Caribbean Lobster
Deep in the Sian Ka'an nature reserve, there's a seriously remote village called Punta Allen, where a team from the local sustainable lobster fishing cooperative brings Rick and chef Juan Pablo Loza out for an afternoon at sea. The day's catch? A Caribbean lobster, simply prepared in coconut soup. Back at the ultra-luxe Rosewood Mayakoba resort, Juan Pablo showcases the tranquil resort gardens before preparing a feast of grilled lobster zarandeado with adobo mayo and sweet corn puree in the kitchen of La Ceiba, an outdoor garden party area. Inspired by the tropical abundance, Rick heads to his backyard garden with master gardener Bill Shores before making greens with grilled honey-lime dressing and a sweet-and-spicy, chipotle-honey glazed shrimp dish.
A Tour of Traditions
Ask anyone about traditional cooking in the Yucatan and you're bound to hear the name Miriam Peraza, a grandmotherly dynamo who knows every nook and cranny. She brings Rick to the bustling Mercado de Lucas de Galvez in Merida for a quick tour that includes a rare look at the making of recado spice pastes. Flanked by villagers in the remote town of Yaxunah, Miriam and Rick drop in to watch the making of pit-cooked cochinita pibil, the Yucatan's iconic dish of achiote-smothered, pit-cooked suckling pig. At Manjarblanco restaurant in Merida, Miriam shows her take on classic panuchos, sopa de lima and queso relleno. Then, Rick brings some of the Yucatan back to Chicago, where he cooks papadzules and shows how to make cochinita pibil at home - banana leaves and quick-pickled onions included.
Off The Beaten Path In Playa del Carmen
Rick brings you out of the plush resorts and into the streets of Playa del Carmen, where street vendors and roadside stands serve real-deal Mexican food. Rick heads to Antojitos Yucateco for cochinita pibil tortas, then to nearby Las Karnitas for tacos of golden, crispy carnitas with spicy salsa. Then Rick follows the smoke to a little roadside cart, where crowds gather for cecina estilo Yecapixtla, thin-cut seared beef with grilled onions and nopales. At Le Chique, a modern dining room between Cancun and Puerto Morales, Chef Jonatan Gomez Luna dazzles Rick with feats of Mexican molecular gastronomy. Back in Chicago, Rick shows how to execute the perfect taco party of your own, complete with slow cooker carnitas, summer squash and guero chile, and grilled achiote catfish with spicy habanero mayo.
Ceviches Gone Wild
The fertile waters of the Caribbean Sea provide exquisitely fresh fish, a bounty perhaps best translated on the plate through ceviche. Or sometimes you don't even need a plate, like when Rick and chef Juan Pablo Loza make a ceviche of freshly caught lobster on a boat in the Sian Ka'an nature reserve. At Catch, the Thompson Hotel's swanky rooftop restaurant in Playa del Carmen, chef Pedro Abascal teaches how to make a Peruvian-inspired mandarin, carrot, habanero and ginger ceviche with leche de tigre broth. Then, it's off to nearby Axiote with chef Xavier Perez Stone, who shows Rick how to make outrageously good coconut-shrimp ceviche. A delightful ferry ride brings Rick to picturesque Isla Mujeres, where young chef Diego Lopez builds an absolute stunner of a dish, a ceviche of pargo with an herby green "mojito" broth. At Rick's new Chicago restaurant, Lena Brava, he makes a deceptively simple aguachile in a cocktail shaker and teaches how to make a "Bloody Maria" coctel, complete with a spicy salt rim.
Cooking Like A Local
Hartwood, one of Mexico's most in-demand restaurants, sits nestled between the crystalline beaches and dense jungle in Tulum. Here, chef Eric Werner explains the fascinating farm-to-table supply chain that brings ingredients into Hartwood's unique live-fire kitchen. The rustic simplicity inspires Rick to shop for produce and chiles in Playa del Carmen's laid-back markets. Back in the funky kitchen of a Playa condo rental, Rick prepares poblanos rellenos with tatume squash and longaniza sausage, a beautiful grilled fish with avocado salsa and coconut bread pudding for dessert.
Love of Live Fire Cooking
In Yucatan, cooking over fire is a way of life. Rick meets up with chef Juan Pablo Loza, who ignites the wood-fire grill for octopus with local pineapple. At Zama Beach Club in Isla Mujeres, Cancun chef Federico Lopez fires up his seaside grill to make tikin xic, a Yucatecan grilled fish dish smothered with achiote, the region's hallmark spice paste. And chef Eric Werner shows off his all wood-fire kitchen at Hartwood in Tulum. Forever obsessed with cooking over fire, Rick goes to Lena Brava, his new all wood-fire restaurant in Chicago, to make poc chuc, a traditional citrusy grilled spicy pork dish, then to his backyard for spatchcocked chicken al oregano worthy of a summertime fiesta.
Baking Up Comfort
David Sterling, chef and author of "Yucatan: Recipes from a Culinary Expedition," brings Rick on a whirlwind tour of the peninsula. The pair of Oklahoma-born, Mexico-obsessed chefs begin their journey with a conversation in Hunucma, where Dona Lupita serves home-cooked meals at the kitchen table of her family's cocina economica. Though the Yucatan is not known for its bakeries, David goes to the rustic wood-burning ovens at Panaderia Liz in Merida. Then it's back to the gorgeous kitchen at Los Dos Cooking School, where David makes a pan of buttery, indulgent hojaldras - a sweet-and-savory pastry stuffed with ham, cheese and chile and dusted with sugar. Inspired by all of the homey comfort, Rick makes a nourishing frijol con puerco and a hojaldra all his own.
The Splendor of Yucatan's Enchanting Markets
Revered by his Mexican peers, Federico Lopez is one of Mexico's most affable and talented chefs. He joins Rick at the enchanting Mercado Municipal in Valladolid to extol the virtues of unique Yucatecan produce. After that, the pair head to Temozon, to a decades-old meat market where they smoke pork in rustic ovens behind the store. With a basket full of market produce and smoked meats, the chefs return to Federico's sleek catering kitchen in Cancun, where Federico artfully recreates the market in a salad of local beans, squash, heirloom tomato and chile dulce. Federico also makes pork tenderloin with longaniza sausage and beans. Back in Chicago, Rick makes lima bean soup with ham hock, plus pork lomitos.
A Place of Deeply Rooted Innovation
If you could define the singular challenge facing Yucatecan chefs, it's about honoring the past while pushing forward. Perhaps no one is more emblematic of the effort than Pedro Evia, co-owner of Ku'uk, a molecular fine dining palace housed in a restored Merida mansion. Rick and Pedro start their day talking tradition over tacos at Wayan'e, a busy family-run taco stand in Merida. Then, Pedro invites Rick to his home, where Pedro and his mother make traditional sopa de lentejas. At Ku'uk, Pedro shows us his ultra-modern take on the same dish. Back in Chicago, Rick makes recado negro to complement cured duck. At home, he makes tacos with eggs and burnt habanero salsa, avocado and red onion - the perfect chef's late-night snack.
Chocolate Dreams, Cacao Fantasies
Belgian-born chocolatier Mathieu Brees brings Rick deep in the jungles of Ticul for a tour of cacao groves. The serene setting is the backdrop for a complete bean-to-bar chocolate education, with Mathieu, Rick and the plantation's caretaker tromping around the lovingly farmed cacao fields. Then, Rick and Mathieu head to the Ki' Xocolatl chocolate factory in Merida. Still daydreaming about all of that chocolate, Rick makes a trio of cacao-inspired dishes, including a chocolate cake with candied ancho chile, red mole with chocolate and a cocktail featuring macerated cacao and chile-infused tequila.
Dreaming of Sustainable Agriculture
Chef Pedro Abascal is changing tourist's perceptions of the food in Riviera Maya, using local farms to supply his hip hotel restaurants. Rick and Pedro discuss his challenges and successes of his approach over a traditional Yucatecan meal at Faison y Venado. Rick pays a visit to a lamb farm in Tizimin for a conversation with a rancher, then heads to C-Grill, Pedro's hip restaurant on the shores of Playa del Carmen, where he makes a beautiful roasted lamb in adobo. In Chicago, Rick heads to the outdoor Green City Market to gather ingredients for his grilled leg of lamb with green garlic mojo and camote mash, accompanied by grilled asparagus with pasilla crema. Oh, and an incredibly delicious skillet cake.
Pit Cooking, Sacred and Smoky
Cooking in underground pits is an elemental part of Yucatecan cooking. In fact, it's downright sacred, as seen during the preparation of mucbil pollo at an intimate candlelit Hanal Pixan ceremony (think of it as the Yucatan's version of Dias de Los Muertos.) Rick heads to Yaxunah to see the entire process of making cochinita pibil, from the digging of the pit to the garnishing of the tacos. Rick also visits the smoky ovens in Temozon, a village known throughout Yucatan for its purveyors of smoked meats. Then, he places a big order at Momocoa, a Southern-American- slash-Yucatecan barbecue joint in Merida run by chef Paloma Ponce. All of the smoke stokes Rick's inner pit master, so back in Chicago he makes short ribs with ancho BBQ sauce and pollo pibil.
Examining the Yucatan's Abundant Natural Resources
The salt marshes of Celestun and a seaside octopus farm are unlikely places for a chef to get inspired. But Chef Roberto Solis' approach to food has always been a little different - just see the menu of his revered restaurant Nectar in Merida, which continues to charm and dazzle. In Nectar's kitchen, Roberto shows Rick how to make three of his restaurant's favorite dishes: cebollas negras, poc chuc de pulpo and deeply satisfying crispy, seared pork belly with grilled pineapple and tomatillo. At home, Rick prepares tostadas of charred octopus and escabeche, plus a succulent slow cooker red chile pork belly with braised kale. To finish it off, Rick makes manjar blanco, a traditional Yucatecan coconut dessert.
A Tour of Tacos Al Pastor
Tacos al Pastor are Mexico City's most iconic taco, all red chile-marinated pork roasting slowly on a vertical spit and sliced with glistening pineapple into a warm corn tortilla. Rick offers a glimpse of the bustling city's taco culture, from busy daytime eateries to late-night vendors. No trompo? No problem. Rick makes a version on his grill that will please al pastor purists, then it's back to Chicago for grill-roasted black cod al pastor.
Chilaquiles, Comforting and Classic
Chilaquiles are not just for hangovers, you know. Served everywhere from the regal downtown restaurant El Cardenal to the hipster haven Chilakillers, chilaquiles are a mainstay of Mexico City menus. But they're also easy to achieve at home. Rick's version, redolent with tangy tomatillo sauce, will be your next favorite "anytime" recipe. In Chicago, the traditional chilaquiles get an elegant touch with fried butternut strips and an earthy, complex pasilla chile sauce.
Chocolate and Churros, Breakfast of Champions
In Mexico, golden crispy churros are served with a cup of nourishing, frothy hot chocolate, and there's perhaps no better snack in the whole republic. In this episode, Rick visits El Moro, a Mexico City institution, and then orders fistful of churros rellenos - that's right, stuffed churros - in picturesque Coyocan. Back in Chicago, Rick's recipe begins with classic Mexican hot chocolate and ends with churro nibbles showered atop Mexican hot chocolate ice cream.
Teaching Tortilla Soup
Wherever you are in the world, a bowl of chicken soup is the cure for what ails you. In Mexico, that means a brothy bowl of shredded chicken with fried tortillas, earthy red chile, luscious cream, and fresh cheese. Rick shows you this big bowl of comfort at the countertop of La Corte, a workingperson's downtown diner, and at the historically luxe San Angel Inn. At his Chicago home kitchen, Rick uses his kitchen's pressure cooker to make two nurturing soups, a tried-and-true sopa de tortilla and a meal-in-a-bowl lamb-pasilla caldo.
Picture-Perfect Pozole Party
A giant pot of pork and hominy stew simmering over a wood fire (or in our modern kitchens, the stovetop) is a clarion call to a homespun fiesta. But pozole can be found in the abundant pozolerias around Mexico. Rick takes you inside two - Casa Churra in the bustling downtown and El Pozole de Moctezuma, famous for its Guerrero-style pozole and off-the-beaten-path location - before making a traditional pozole in his own kitchen. In Chicago, he steps through a showcase seafood pozole verde, rich and lush with velvety broth.