Top Chef Master Rick Bayless Reinvents Himself on Stage
Celebrity chef Rick Bayless is cooking as much as ever. He still mans the helm of his trio of Chicago restaurants -- Topolobampo, Frontera Grill and XOCO -- and his PBS show, Mexico: One Plate at a Time, continues to rake in viewers. But these days, the Top Chef Masters champion has traded his chef's jacket for dancing shoes as the star of Lookingglass Theatre's production of Rick Bayless in Cascabel.
A sort of Cirque du Soleil with cooking, the show stars the 58-year-old Bayless as the cook at a Mexican boarding house in the 1940s who is wooing his lost love with his culinary prowess, played by Chiara Mangiameli and shown below.
"I am in character, and I am involved throughout the play cooking for the boarding house guests and creating aromas for the group," Bayless says. "It's very different from cooking on television because I am with a super-talented ensemble, and it really is a performance on a stage, not a market, the backyard grill or my home kitchen."
SecondAct caught up with Bayless between his stage appearances, which run through the end of April, to ask him to share his personal top 10 list.
What are you...
1. Working on: Cascabel. I have always been a fan of Lookingglass Theatre. I connected with Tony Hernandez (co-creator, co-director and performer) on Twitter, and we became instant friends and eventually collaborators, along with Heidi Stillman (co-creator and co-director of Cascabel). We wanted to create something that would connect on all levels, all senses. Food is a character and is something that the audience responds to -- no different than responding to a performance on the stage. I cook mole, toasting the nuts, seeds and chiles on stage. Mole plays a very important role in the play.
From the moment you enter the theater you are greeted with bites: guacamole, a spoonful of wonderful cheese and then at your table, more surprises. The first dish is wrapped so it cannot be seen by guests. The main course is the mole, and the end of the play you are celebrating with dessert.
2. Reading: I am catching up on all of my food magazines and just got a galley copy of my friend Maricel (Presilla)'s latest cookbook.
3. Watching: Not a lot of time for TV, but I love Modern Family.
4. Listening to: All kinds of stuff. I missed Lila Downs when she was in Chicago, but I love La Sandunga.
6. Inspired by: My team at Frontera/Topolobampo and XOCO. They make it so I can do stuff like Cascabel.
7. Imagining: That all problems in the world could be settled by sitting down and eating a great meal together.
8. Challenged by: Myself. I am constantly pushing to learn, expand and grow. I like seeing where that takes me. Doing Cascabel was a big leap.
9. Relaxing with: Yoga. I have been practicing for years, and it just feels right to me.
10. Planning for an encore: I think this is a once-in-a-lifetime event. We have worked hard at reinventing ourselves at Frontera and Topolo, and after 25 years, we are coming out with a new menu. The places have been renovated and look great, and I feel like we are starting all over. I also have a new book out in the fall, focusing on fabulous cocktails, guacamoles and snacks. And season 9 of Mexico: One Plate at a Time will be shot in Oaxaca this year.
Keep reading: My Top 10 List: Celebrity Chef Susan Feniger