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Bayless Throws A Mean "Top Chef Masters" Party

By Marcus Gilmer in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 20, 2009 4:00PM

"That mole was the hardest thing I've ever cooked in my life, as I didn't have a recipe available. The 27 ingredients I used were from memory," Rick Bayless told the assembled crowd between commercial breaks at Frontera Grill last night. Bayless threw what was essentially a victory party last night, screening the "Top Chef Masters" finale to a host of media, VIP and haiku masters like Benjy. If you've never witnessed Bill Kurtis firing off the fiercest finger guns this side of Joe Biden, you're missing one of life's guiltiest pleasures.

Bayless spent the commercial breaks dishing dirt on the finale: how he, Hubert Keller and Michael Chiarello were shocked to find they weren't doing a Quickfire challenge; that the arrival of their respective sous chefs actually slowed them down in preparation for the final meal; that the kitchen was an oppressive 100 degrees for the five hours they cooked for the finale; the judges table lasted 2.5 hours and each chef thought they lost the competition on one dish.

After Bayless was announced the winner, he stood tall on the bar at Frontera and said, "Only in America can a chef cooking Mexican food beat a French chef." That sums up Bayless in a nutshell. Teresa Puente may take issue, but Bayless's exhaustive, almost anthropological research of the culinary traditions of Mexico has taken the food out of the barrios while still maintaining their roots. And he's done so in a manner that is both selfless and savvy. With that win, Bayless earns a $100,000 check for his Frontera Farmer Foundation.

Bayless's winning "Top Chef Masters" dinner menu is available at Topobolampo (445 N. Clark St., 312-661-1434) for a limited time.