Chicago chef Rick Bayless is a Decoder favorite, and Wednesday night he'll feed Obama and Mexico President Felipe Calderón at a White House state dinner.
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/File
How do you get to be the guest chef at a White House state dinner? Easy – run popular restaurants in the president’s home town.
That’s how Rick Bayless managed it, anyway. Mr. Bayless is the Chicago-based chef who tonight is cooking a Mexican-style dinner for President of Mexico Felipe Calderón at the White House. He (Bayless, not President Calderón) is the force behind Frontera Grill, Topolobambo, and other Windy City eateries that US President Barack Obama has enjoyed over the years.
It’s an unenviable task, really. Think about it – a US-born cook whipping up Mexican food for a powerful Mexican native. If President Obama went to Mexico, would they get the best US-style chef in the country to cook burgers and apple pie? It would be hard to top what Obama can get at home.
Not that Bayless is planning to serve tamales. His stuff is high-style: pork-and-fruit-stuffed chilies in white walnut sauce, slow-roasted Yucatecan pig, and the like.
He’s been mum on the menu, saying only that he’s making mole, the black chocolate-infused sauce often served with chicken. Of course, where home cooks would take an afternoon to make mole, he’s taking two days, and using 28 ingredients.
And he’s excited. Who wouldn’t be? “Heading into the WH for another full day of creation. Got my fingers crossed there are no hitches!,” Bayless tweeted this morning. (His tweets threatened to get him in trouble when the Chicago Sun-Times ran a story accusing him of violating White House communications policy by tweeting there. Bayless insists he's tweet-free at the first kitchen.)