Tonight we'll be tuning in to the premiere of Bravo's Top Chef Masters to root for all the contestants who are JBF Award winners or nominees. Among them is Rick Bayless, whose restaurant, Frontera Grill, won the medal for Outstanding Restaurant in 2007. He's competing for his charity, Frontera Farmer Foundation, which supports small Midwestern farms that practice sustainability. We caught up with the Chicago-based chef at last year's JBF Awards gala, when the event's theme was "Artisanal America."
James Beard Foundation: What would you eat for your last meal on earth? Rick Bayless: Something in a tortilla for sure. JBF: What’s your earliest food memory? RB: Peeling peaches with my grandmother. JBF: What’s your favorite regional ingredient? RB: I love our tomatoes! We plant so many wonderful varieties, and we have even expanded to grow them on our roof of the restaurant in the middle of the city! JBF: What’s your favorite seasonal dish to make? RB: In the summer it is really wonderful to make Swiss chard tacos with a little queso on top. JBF: What life lesson have you learned in the kitchen? RB: You bring a lot more than just food to the table. JBF: Why do you support local, artisanal producers? RB: We cannot survive without our local produce and our farmers. Great agriculture needs to exist to support great cuisines.