Frontera Hearts Farmers

In the final weeks leading up to Rick Bayless’s induction into the Chicago Culinary Museum Chefs Hall of Fame (T minus 11 days), we are guessing we are going to see more and more no-real-point-but-glory articles about the Frontera Grill honcho. Like, for example, this one from Crain’s Chicago, which calls attention to the Frontera Farm Foundation. First, Rick et al give an informal, no-interest $7k loan to a spinach farmer to help him increase his exclusive Frontera crop. Then…

Other farmers caught wind of the deal, and the next year the restaurant gave about $10,000 to a farmer in North Adams, Mich., to help buy a herd of goats and was repaid in meat and cheese. A similar arrangement was made with a local lettuce farmer.

These informal relationships continued for four years, funded by $10,000 the restaurant put aside for the no-interest loans, until Mr. Bayless and his staff decided they were tired of cooking at charity events that supported causes they didn’t feel personally connected to.

In 2003, during a brainstorming session in Frontera’s cookbook-lined library, they decided to formalize the loans by starting a non-profit foundation that would give grants to local farmers who primarily use organic methods, which are easier on the soil. It’s a group the staff felt passionate about supporting.

“We fund people who are really interested in making a difference, both in the earth and their communities,” says Mr. Bayless … “Great local cuisine only comes from great local agriculture.”

We are historically a bit waffly on our opinion of Mr. Mustache McMexicanFood (his legal name), but we are finding little to fault here.

Frontera Grill’s seeds take root [Chicago Business]
Frontera Grill [MenuPages]
Frontera Grill [Official Site]

[Photo: How much of this plate of Quesadillas & Beans is locally sourced, hm? via zesmerelda’s Flickr]

Frontera Hearts Farmers