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Chicago Chef Rick Bayless Wins Top Chef Masters

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Last night Chicago chef and the go-to man for Mexican cuisine in the US, Rick Bayless, won the first season of Top Chef Masters. Congratulations Chef!

Top Chef Masters is a spin-off of the popular Bravo show Top Chef, where they pit world renowned chefs against each other in culinary battle, with the grand prize of $100,000 going to the winners charity of choice.

Bayless was a crowd favorite from the start, and obviously the favorite here in Chicago. He elevates Mexican cuisine to a higher level, and even has affordable options for us foodies who can’t afford a full tasting menus or an outrageous dinner bill.

The last challenge on the show was to cook a meal that was basically a biography of your culinary life. The first course was a memory of food from your childhood, the second the food that made you decide to become a chef, the third was the standout dish from your first restaurant, and the fourth a dish of where you are today and where you are going as a chef. From a hickory-smoked quail barbeque and spicy watermelon salad from Rick’s childhood of growing up in a BBQ establishment, to a braised suckling pig with sunchoke pudding, Bayless wowed the judges with his honest and soulful dishes. The star of the show was his Atun de Mole Negro, the dish that made him want to become a chef. He tasted it during his first trip to Mexico, it’s a complex mole with a plethora of ingredients, and Bayless pointed out it took him 25 years to learn how to make it right. The dish was a seared Hawaiian ahi tuna with the black Oaxacan mole, plantain-filled tamal, grilled nopal salad, roasted knob onions, and three-nut crunch. When the judges discussed the dish, they suggested pausing and just making guttural sounds of enjoyment to express how wonderful the mole was. To be honest, I was salivating just looking at it on TV.

And since you’re lucky enough to live in Chicago, you can now taste the mole that captivated some of the highest judges in the culinary world. For the next four weeks, Topolobampo will be serving all the items from the final episode, separate and as a tasting menu. Surely reservations will pick up even more since last nights win, so call and try to reserve a spot now. I know I’ll be there, eating some mole with a big smile, no words needed to describe the art of Rick Bayless’s cooking.