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    Rick Bayless: putting Mexico on the map

    By DAI HUYNH
    Houston Chronicle

    When it comes to chilies, you could bite into a red-hot firecracker or a smoky, raisiny poblano. But venturing into the unknown is what makes life interesting, Rick Bayless says.

    When the 47-year-old Oklahoma native traveled to Mexico as a teen-ager, a new world of flavors opened up to him, and he studied authentic Mexican food for nearly three decades.

    Today, he's executive chef of Chicago's popular Frontera Grill and Topolobampo restaurants and author of three cookbooks. He will showcase his work on television with a new cooking show scheduled to air in late May or early June on PBS. Mexico -- One Plate at a Time will highlight the national dishes of that country, including mole poblano and posole (hominy soup). The series will have a companion book by the same name, due in bookstores in September.

    Bayless was in Houston recently for a fund-raiser and took time for a one-on-one interview. Here's what the self-described gringo has to say about himself, Mexican food and its growing popularity.

    How did you get into the restaurant business?

    I grew up in the food business. My grandparents had a restaurant; my aunts and uncles owned restaurants; and my parents had a restaurant.

    When did you learn to cook?

    When I was young -- we're talking about 5 or 6 years old. I loved to go to my parents' restaurant and play in the kitchen. That was one of my hobbies. Everybody in my family knew I loved to cook, and everybody was always giving me a cookbook.

Rick Bayless's Mexican Kitchen : Capturing the Vibrant Flavors of a World-Class Cuisine



 Salsas That Cook : Using Classic Salsas to Enliven Our Favourite Dishes



Mexico One Plate at a Time



 Authentic Mexican : Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico