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Interview: Rick Bayless On His Work With the Kids Café

By L. Stolpman in Food on Oct 7, 2008 5:00PM

20080927-RickBayless.jpgYou may recall that Rick Bayless helped ring in the new Kids Café at the Marillac Social Center on the west side, one of eight throughout the country sponsored by Uncle Ben's rice to raise awareness of the growing hunger issue in this country. The goal of the café is to eventually serve over 12,000 meals in the next twelve months and to teach children about healthy eating and exercise habits.

We had the opportunity to ask Chef Bayless a few quick questions about his work with the Kids Café.

Chicagoist: What attracted you to partner with Uncle Ben's and Feeding America to participate in the grand opening of the Kid Café here in Chicago?

Chef Bayless: First of all, I love working with young people—I began working in schools years ago and with programs that would help kids make positive food choices and know where their food comes from. The Uncle Ben's project was exciting because I knew that this was going to directly affect the kids that attend the Marillac Center (which by the way is an amazing building—beautiful, well-run, I was truly impressed!).

C: How much involvement have you and will you have with the Kid Cafe? Is this something that you will continue to play a role in or was it limited to lending your name and presence to the grand opening?

Bayless: I would love to go back! My initial involvement was for the grand opening and to shed light on the center and what Uncle Ben’s is doing nationwide.

C: Do you consider your partnership with Uncle Ben's an endorsement of their product? Or is this more of a philanthropic partnership? And is it possible to separate the two?

Bayless: I consider it a philanthropic partnership and yes, I do think that it is possible to separate. It is no secret that I don’t use Uncle Ben’s rice in my restaurants—the fact is that I am supportive of almost any program that can help feed our nation’s children. Uncle Ben’s rice is easy to make, accessible to everyone and is a good product. I loved being there and it was really great to meet all of those kids. One of them called me Uncle Ben—I cracked up!

Thanks for the good work, Uncle Bayless!