According to an excellent reportage piece by Christopher Borrelli in the Chicago Tribune, the first few days at Xoco rattled the seemingly unflappable chef Rick Bayless to the point where he tells his wife, “”This is the first time since opening we started serving crap! I’m letting crap clear that counter. Because we cannot keep up.”
The tension is so thick on those opening days, Borrelli writes:
“I had planned to be at his side for two days, morning until night, to listen to every conversation, to watch and taste, and see what emerges from the small details and fleeting moments of the daily life of this superstar chef, arguably the most recognizable American chef of the moment. He agreed, but at this moment, a punch to my face seems a more likely emergence.”
The most insightful part of the story comes when an unbidden and wistful Bayless starts talking about how, despite his accomplishments, he was nothing in his sports-obsessed family (which includes his brother ESPN personality Skip Bayless) or local Oklahoma culture until he won the Top Chef competition. We’ve likely gotten a look at what makes the Frontera machine tick so well.
In all fairness, considering the pressures of maintaining credibility as America’s Top Chef during a heated restaurant opening, we think Bayless holds up pretty well in the article. We know a few other top Chicago chefs, one quoted in this particular article, who, based on past precedent, would probably be throwing hot pans of risotto and screaming and berating his staff after a day like Bayless had.
Still if you don’t believe the yoga king and bastion of inner peace Bayless could punch a reporter and you’ve got an extra $1,250 burning a hole in your pocket, you can find out out first hand by attending this Chicago Food Depository benefit. Attendees will get a tour of Bayless’ backyard garden, a dinner at Frontera, and cooking classes from Bayless in the studio test kitchen above his house.