The Banchet Culinary Achievement Award is given to a chef who has displayed extraordinary prowess throughout his/her career. It is awarded to someone who is not only an incredible chef, but one whose work has become part of why Chicago is the culinary destination it is today. As an active participant in the city of Chicago, this chef’s passion for the culinary arts is only matched by his/her generosity in community outreach and charitable activities. The 2017 Banchet Culinary Achievement Award will be presented to Chef Rick Bayless.
Most people know Rick Bayless from winning the title of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, beating out the French and Italian with his authentic Mexican cuisine. His highly rated Public Television Series, Mexico–One Plate at a Time, has wrapped its 11th season and is broadcast coast to coast. In 2012, Rick was nominated for a Daytime Emmy for Best Culinary Host.
Rick has nine cookbooks. His second book, Mexican Kitchen, won the Julia Child IACP cookbook of the year award in 1996, and his fourth book, Mexico–One Plate at a Time won James Beard Best International Cookbook of the Year award in 2001. Fiesta at Rick’s spent a number of weeks on the New York Times best seller list.
Rick’s side by side award-winning restaurants are in Chicago. The casual Frontera Grill was founded in 1987 and received the James Beard Foundation’s highest award, Outstanding Restaurant, in 2007. The 4-star Toplobampo served its first meals in 1991. And the wildly popular, LEED GOLD-certified, fast-casual Xoco has been around since 2009, serving wood-oven tortas, steaming caldos, golden churros and bean-to-cup Mexican hot chocolate. Rick’s quick-service Tortas Frontera have changed the face of food service at O’Hare International Airport, while Frontera Fresco has brought Frontera flavors to several Macy’s stores and Northwestern University. His award-winning Frontera line of salsas, cooking sauces and organic chips can be found coast to coast.
In 2016, he opened two new restaurants in Chicago’s bustling West Loop neighborhood — the Baja-inspired, wood-fired Leña Brava and the adjacent Cervecería Cruz Blanca, a craft brewery and Oaxacan-style taquería. Both have earned critical acclaim. Also in 2016, he opened Frontera Cocina in Disney Springs.
Rick and his staff established the Frontera Farmer Foundation in 2003 to support small Midwestern farms. Each year, grants are awarded to farmers for capital improvements to their family farms, encouraging greater production and profitability. To date, the Foundation has awarded nearly 200 grants totaling nearly $2 million. In 2007, Bayless and his team launched the Frontera Scholarship, a full tuition scholarship that sends a Mexican-American Chicago Public School student to Kendall College to study culinary arts. In 2007 Rick was awarded the Humanitarian of the Year by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his many philanthropic endeavors.
Rick has received a great number of James Beard Award nominations in many categories, and he has won seven: Midwest Chef of the Year, National Chef of the Year, Humanitarian of the Year, Who’s Who of American Food and Drink, Best Podcast, plus two for his cookbooks.
The Government of Mexico has bestowed on Rick the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle–the highest decoration bestowed on foreigners whose work has benefitted Mexico and its people.
Recently, Rick finished up a sold-out 5-week run on stage at Lookingglass Theatre, where he created Cascabel–offering theater goers the story of a meal, told through flavor, memory, song, dance and amazing physical feats.