A long time staple of the KLCS’ cooking shows line-up, Rick Bayless is back with another season of Mexico: One Plate at a Time. We caught up with Rick and asked him about what we can expect on this year’s shows, how his love of Mexican cuisine evolved and, of course, his Julia Child story.
What’s the theme or aim with your show each season?
Each season, we aim to highlight regional Mexican cooking, then bring those iconic dishes (or even the little-known dishes) back to my kitchen, where I step viewers through the recipes. That means traveling high and low in Mexico to showcase the food (and spirits and wine) and the people who produce it, whether in market stalls, restaurants, or sometimes, in their homes.
Do you have a favorite dish on the show?
There are so many! But I’m wild about the Coconut Shrimp Ceviche. It’s a total showstopper.
How did a kid from Oklahoma and a barbeque background find his passion in life to be Mexican cuisine?
It’s always hard to explain, but I was a teenager when I convinced my parents to take a family vacation to Mexico City. I was immediately hooked. Later, as an undergraduate student of Spanish and Latin American culture and then with PhD-level doctoral work in anthropological linguistics at the University of Michigan, my focus eventually turned toward the food of Mexico. For six years, Deann and I crisscrossed Mexico, tasting and exploring. That research eventually became our first cookbook, “Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico,” which was published the same time Frontera Grill opened.
So far everyone’s had a Julia Child story, do you have a Julia story? You were once on her old show, correct?
Oh, yes. A total life highlight. The whole segment was surreal for me. Have you ever had the chance to be with your childhood idol? Totally mesmerizing. I guess my Julia story boils down to this, and I think it says so much: when other kids were out playing, I was inside glued to Julia’s show on TV, dutifully taking notes.
You’re on CreateTV and have been on KLCS’ Saturday afternoon cooking block. Do you get feedback that your show is a guilty pleasure in a noisy world?
I wouldn’t say they’re a “guilty” pleasure at all. I think true cooking shows are a reprieve from the noisy, competition-fueled battles we tend to see on network TV. I think there’s something to a knowledgeable, patient approach that really pays off for the at-home cook.
What’s the most frequent question you get? And what’s your answer to it?
People ask me my favorite Mexican dish. And I really, truly don’t have an answer. So what I say is “that would be like picking favorite child” and then talk about a dish I’m currently obsessing over.
Since you’ve started cooking on TV, the TV world has changed so much, what keeps it fun for you? You can tell that you really enjoy your job.
Mexico is a place of deeply rooted tradition, yet there are so many up and coming chefs who are driving the cuisine forward. I live for seeing what they’re doing, and the TV show is a great way to put the spotlight on them.
I loved the episode when you had Jacques Pepin over and you guys cooked together in Mexico. Do ever just pinch yourself you get to do this for a living and follow in those footsteps of educating people about cooking on TV?
All the time. Seriously, all the time.
When you’re in L.A., do you have any favorite places to dine or food shop at?
I never miss the chance to visit Grand Central Market and eat gorditas. El Mercadito is always on my agenda too.
It’s been nice to see your family on the show through the years and the lessons about gardening in your urban backyard, you probably get a lot of feedback on that. Is there anything that’s next, or about your show you want to add?
This season, we’ve added “market minute” segments that people seem to find helpful. They’re little sidebars offering tips and tricks for shopping in Mexican markets, and sometimes it spills into the world of gardening. I think anytime we’re offering practical advice (and not, say, totally aspirational dishes fit for a bounteous table) is helpful.