Author: Connors, Thomas B
Date published: March 1, 2012
A CHEF OF ONE'S OWN
LIKE ANY CHEF WORTH HIS SALT THESE DAYS, RICK BAYLESS HAS HAD to master the medium: television. And while he is not as bouncy as Giada De Laurentiis nor as in-your-face as Gordon Ramsay, he's at ease on camera, singularly persuasive in his ability to share his enthusiasm for Mexican cuisine. This month he takes to the stage in Cascabel, which he cooked up with Tony Hernandez and Heidi Stillman of Chicago's Lookingglass Theatre Company.
Running March 21-April 22, the show concerns the owner of a Mexican boarding house who has lost all interest in life. Even food doesn't excite her - that is, until a mysterious new chef arrives. Bayless, whose culinary empire includes restaurants, cookbooks and condiments, sees Cascabel as "a pure piece of theatre that explores emotion and history and food and how they all intertwine." Bayless actually cooks on stage for the cast- a three-course meal with dishes Bayless devised to be "transformative" experiences in the lives of the characters on stage. "It's not as much about the finished dishes," he explains, "as it is about the roles those dishes play."
Bayless initially studied drama in college, but shifted his focus to Spanish and Latin American studies. And while it's been years since he's picked up anything published by Samuel French, he sees this Lookingglass outing as akin to his regular work. "It's not a big step for me. I perform all the time. On my television shows and in front of groups, I'm performing. But I am also creating a story about food. So when people taste the food I've made, they're not just tasting the individuai ingrethents - they're tasting die tradition it comes from. 1 always think of it like when you walk into an art museum and say, 'Oh, I kind of like that piece.' Then you view the same piece with a curator and suddenly your appreciation is off the charts. That's what I do with food, and that's what this whole piece is about." - Thomas B. Connors