When Rick Bayless, the chef, cookbook author and television star, hits the road, it’s most often to Mexico, the country whose cuisine has been the inspiration for his recipes and clutch of Chicago restaurants. His latest establishment, Frontera Cocina, opened in Disney Springs in Orlando, Fla., in June.
“I have an apartment in Mexico City, but it’s like another home, not a vacation so much,” Mr. Bayless said. “The other place I go yearly is to Oaxaca, where I’ve spent the last 25 Christmases. For me it really embodies the spirit of Christmas: sharing, people and festivities. There’s this old convent called Quinta Real that was built in the 1600s and it’s been converted into a hotel. It’s not luxurious in the sumptuous sense, it’s luxurious because it has so much history.”
Another place he visits again and again is Thailand. “I love the same things about Thailand that I love about Mexico. It’s the generosity of spirit that the people have, and there’s almost nowhere you go where people don’t greet you warmly,” he said. “Plus, I love the food, obviously. The curries you find in Thailand and the moles in Mexico both take time to make and lots of dedication on the part of the cook to get them right.
“I also like to go to Japan every couple of years,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling, the sense of respect they have for food and cooking food. I sometimes think we’re very precise in our restaurant kitchens, and then I go to Japan and realize what precision is all about.”
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