Teresa Puente isn’t happy that Rick Bayless is the American face of Mexican food. “Why is Rick Bayless the expert on Mexican cuisine when he isn’t even Mexican?” she asks in a pointed post on Chicanisma, one of the Tribune’s family of ChicagoNow blogs. “Something just bugged me that a white guy was gaining so much fame for his Mexican cuisine.” She analogizes it to a proponent of French food being not-French, and that’s where Bayless directs his rejoinder: “Julia Child, T Keller?” he twitters.
Game, set, and match on the analogy — neither Child nor Keller is French, but the two are both highly recognizable ambassadors of the cuisine to the American palate. Still, at the very least, Puente’s point does stand as a reminder that the current state of celebrity cheffery suffers from a disappointing lack of diversity. Of the twenty-four contestants on Top Chef Masters, the show whose promotion of Bayless piqued Puente’s ire, just three are chefs of color: Anita Lo, Roy Yamaguchi, and Douglas Rodriguez.