After nine seasons of exploring various states of Mexico, we couldn’t resist the allure of modern Mexico City or Mexico, D.F. or simply DF (the Federal District capital of Mexico). Mexico City is the country’s largest city as well as its most important political, cultural, educational and financial center. Located in the heart of Mexico, at an altitude of 7, 350 feet, its greater metropolitan population of more than 21 million people makes it the largest Spanish-speaking city in the world.
For the tenth season of Chef Rick Bayless’ highly-rated cooking and travel show, we’re taking our viewers all over DF’s sixteen boroughs to explore the vibrant restaurant scene, evolving cuisine and ancient culture that makes this amazing city so irresistible.
Rick takes viewers on a journey as seen through the eyes of DF’s passionate, new chefs. Each episode features one prominent chef in his/her acclaimed Mexico City restaurant. The chef will prepare a dish and guide Rick on a tour of their inspirations for a life in food—from their grandmothers, to abundant markets to significant restaurants. Then Rick, the consummate cooking teacher, brings it all home so viewers everywhere can try their own hand at this incredible cuisine.
Restaurateur Gabriella Camara, owner of Contramar, just might be the most energetic woman in Mexico City. Raised by a family that loves food and fine service, she dreamed a dream of fresh fish served simply and respectfully. At 23, she opened her first restaurant, Contramar. Sixteen years later, Contramar remains at the top of everyone’s list for phenomenal seafood and superior service. Her vision has expanded to include Baja’s top Chef Jair Tellez. Their restaurant, Mero Toro, in the vibrant Condesa neighborhood, features a big city vibe and the passion of two people that truly love pristine seafood. Chef Jair shows Rick his simple, yet stunning, robalo with porcini and green garlic. At home, Rick makes Contramar’s famous tuna tostadas and a green adobo grilled fish.
Ever seen a kid in a candy store? Their excitement pales next to a chef in a market. An early morning trek to the Central de Abastos, one of the world’s largest markets, with Rick Bayless and Chef Eduardo “Lalo” Garcia, proves exhilarating. Neither chef can talk fast enough about all the dishes they want to make from the mind-boggling stacks of nopales, the fragrant herbs, the crisp greens, the juicy pitayas and mangos. Chef Lalo’s path to his wildly popular Maximo Bistrot in Mexico City includes migrant work on produce farms and stints in fine-dining establishments in Atlanta and New York City. Today, his suckling pig carnitas have a massive following. Lucky for us, he and Rick cook the dish in his restaurant kitchen. Rick and Chef Enrique Olvera, owner of Pujol and arguably Mexico’s top chef, talk about the evolution of Mexican food and the challenge to change people’s perception of the cuisine. At home, Rick coaxes amazing flavors from humble tomatillos, pork and potatoes and makes a delicious chayote salad to accompany it.
“Eat your veggies” – it’s a line children from Mexico to Morocco hear from their parents. In this episode, we meet a pair of chefs who took that advice seriously. As Rick discovers, chefs Israel Montero and Alfredo Chaves of Kaah Siis Restaurant aren’t just eating their vegetables, nor just cooking them – they’re growing them at Xochimilco, Mexico City’s ancient floating gardens. The chefs give Rick a tour of the chinampas, small man-made islands amongst the canals, where some of the city’s chefs are growing organic and specialty produce. They talk about sustainability, the future of organic, and, of course, kale. Back in Chicago, Rick takes us to the closest thing he has to Xochimilco: Green City Market, where he visits his favorite vendors and takes their wares home for a taco party where Rick makes greens and bean tacos, summer squash tacos, and tacos of creamy roasted poblano, corn and zucchini.
If there’s a face of Mexico City’s restaurant scene, it might be Jorge Vallejo’s. (Of course, it may also be Enrique Olvera’s, or Gabrielle Camara’s … who’s counting?). Vallejo’s cooking, found at his intimate restaurant Quintonil, has long been an inspiration for Rick and Deann. But what inspires Jorge? What propels him to put together dishes such as his stunning mole with beef tongue? In one word: Tacos. So in this episode, Rick follows Jorge on a taco tour, from the simple vegetable preparations at Tacos Gus to the super-rich and satisfying suadero-style tacos at Taqueria Los Cocuyos. Back in Chicago, Rick makes his own amazing tacos at home, complete with homemade tortillas.
Rick’s got nothing against cerveza and margaritas, but in this episode he explores another side of Mexican drinking: Wine. Mexican wine. And no, that’s not a misnomer. In fact, the burgeoning craft of Mexican wine is growing, often in unusual places. Marvin Nahmias and partners have transformed a high-rise rooftop in Mexico City into a small vineyard and winemaking facility; after they give Rick a tour, they give him the keys to the kitchen. The winery’s brick ovens and grills speak to Rick’s inner pit master, so at the San Juan Market, Rick selects cabrito to cook over hardwood, tender chayote to roast in the wood oven for tacos and eggplant to char into a salsa. Salud!
In the land of the tortilla, bread can often get overlooked. But if Chef Elena Reygadas has anything to say about it, bread will soon rise as an important player in Mexican cuisine. She certainly has the right tools to effect change: At her bakery, Rosetta Panaderia, she crafts transcendent versions of Mexico’s classic pan de pulque (pulque bread) and sugary-topped conchas. Rick swoons over these treats and engages Reygadas in a conversation about their shared philosophies of cooking and building community. We get a sneak peak at Elena’s process for conchas before Rick teaches us his foolproof method at home. Then, it’s sandwich time: Rick visits Eno, Chef Enrique Olvera’s casual spot that serves tuna and chicken milanesa tortas in homemade bollilo rolls. Then we head back to Chicago, where Rick makes a torta at his casual spot, Xoco.
The Mercado Lazaro Cardenas is pretty standard as far as markets in Mexico City go. But turn one corner and suddenly you’re in a different world: The world of coffee geeks, of which Rick is a proud citizen. The Passmar Cafe Finos stall brews espresso with natillas and cappuccino with blue curacao using unique brewing methods and award-winning baristas, and Rick geeks out in the best possible (caffeinated) way. Fully charged on caffeine, Rick’s ready for a cocktail. So he pays a visit to mixologist Joseph Mortera, who takes Rick through a couple of his delicious creations including a mescal cocktail made with fresh hoja santa leaves and absinthe. Next up: Ricardo Nava, a bartender at Polanco’s sleek bar Limantour, who shakes up his margarita by using mescal, pineapple juice and hot chile. Lucky for us, Rick makes cocktails with herbs from his garden plus some very tasty snacks in his home kitchen.
Chef Edgar Nuñez wants to change the world. Like Rick, Edgar believes everyone should have access to fresh, local food; he believes Mexican chefs should embrace their own cuisine; and he believes in mentoring the younger generation. Rick and Edgar strategize over a meal of duck carnitas with mole negro at Sud 777, Edgar’s strikingly beautiful fine dining Mexico City restaurant. Then they take it to the streets where Edgar’s mission continues via food trucks that serve fresh, affordable tacos, tostadas and caldos to all manner of customers. At home, Rick shares his tips and recipes for a stress-free tostada party – including great guacamole – sure to change your world.
Carlos Yescas is a cheesehead on a mission: Put the fine, outstanding artisanal cheeses of Mexico on everyone’s radar screen. Yescas scours the country for the best cheese producers; then, he scours Mexico City’s best restaurants for chefs that will use those cheeses on their menus. One chef he’s had success with is Jorge Vallejo, owner of Quintonil, who happily uses a super-rich doble crema cheese from Chiapas to make his mother’s version of huazontles, and a tangy, bouncy quesillo from Chiapas for an elegant cheese soup. Luckily for the residents of DF, these cheeses can now be found at Carlos’s stall, Lactography, in the sleek new Mercado Roma. Lucky Rick gets to sample the wares before heading home to Chicago, where he teaches us how easy it is to make whole milk ricotta.
Everywhere Rick goes, he asks chefs about Mexico’s up-and-coming talent. These days, Mexico City’s chefs all have the same answer: Pablo Salas. The odd thing? Salas doesn’t work in Mexico City – his restaurant, Amaranta, is in Toluca, about an hour’s drive away. Undaunted by the trip, Rick meets Pablo at the Santiago Tianguistengo Market to get a look at the traditions that inspire Pablo’s modern Mexiquense cooking – from the myriad of chorizo choices to the pasilla chiles and vegetables. The chefs also visit a local carniceria for a peek at Toluca’s famed chorizo. In the Amaranta kitchens, Pablo shows us the simple tricks to his favorite mole with oxtail. At home, Rick makes an easy version of chorizo to use in crispy potato sopes.
Mexico and chocolate go together like salsa and chips. But if you hear “Mexican chocolate” and think of something to dip churros into, you’re only getting a part of the story. A few Mexico City chocolatiers see more potential for Mexican chocolate – they see single-origin chocolate bars, beautiful hand-formed truffles, even ambitious sculptures made of the stuff. Hector Galvan of La Casa Tropical talks with Rick about the cultural importance of chocolate in Mexico and why he is working so diligently to save ancient varieties of cacao. And pastry chef Jose Ramon Castillo – proprietor of DF’s hippest chocolate shop, Que Bo! – shows how he creates some of Mexico’s finest chocolates, from bonbons to beverages. At home, Rick puts Mexican chocolate to work in a chocolate cocktail, Mexican truffles and a stunning chocolate-mesquite cake.
As the restaurant scene in Mexico City has exploded, so, too, have the culinary schools. Rick takes us to the Coronado Cooking School where the mission is to educate the next generation of chefs. Rick talks with students in the traditional Mexican kitchen classroom as they make a pipian sauce for shrimp. The school’s outdoor live-fire kitchen includes tortilla lessons. In the “Dave” Creative Kitchen we see a beautiful presentation of pork loin with vegetables and huaximole. Coronado’s students also help run Raiz, one of Mexico City’s top destination restaurants. Chef Arturo Fernandez guides them on a path that includes new tricks and techniques, but with the soul of his aunt’s home-style tongue in caper sauce. Rick, a consummate and patient teacher, hosts culinary students in the Frontera Test Kitchens to create a memorable meal that ends with the classic crepas con cajeta dessert.
Chefs can get excited over the littlest thing. For Josefina Santacruz, that thing is beans. She believes every cook should know how to cook beans and rice before venturing any further in Mexican cuisine. For an example of beans done right, Rick and Josefina head to Nico’s Restaurant, which has been cooking perfect beans since 1957; their bean soup proves a thing of beauty. Rick and Josefina likewise admire the perfect barbacoa made daily by Chef Moises Rodriguez Vargas of Hidalguense restaurant in Mexico City. He shares his careful preparation of this classic dish with Rick and Josefina at his home. At Yuban, in the Roma neighborhood of Mexico City, young Chef Paloma Ortiz respects the cuisine of Oaxaca while adding her personal flourishes. In Chicago, Rick steps us through a simple barbacoa sure to inspire all cooks.