Born in 1953 into a family of restaurateurs specializing in the local barbecue, Bayless “broadened his horizons to include regional Mexican cooking as an undergraduate student of Spanish and Latin American culture.” By 1995, he and partners started the Frontera Foods line of authentic Mexican prepared food products.
Rick Bayless has made America aware of what great Mexican food really is through his Chicago restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo; PBS television specials; guest TV appearances; and best-selling cooking books, including Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico (Morrow), the last of which Craig Claiborne called “the greatest contribution to the Mexican table imaginable.” But his line of Mexican products for the home cook could well be his premier contribution to American lovers of Mexican cuisine before he concludes his illustrious career.

His three lines of products offer home chefs upscale ingredients they are unlikely to find in the supermarket, allowing some of the superb tastes found in only the finest Mexican dining establishments to reach the home meal plate.

The Frontera brand name has been extended to a range of consumer products. A line of bite-sized tortilla chips was introduced this summer. Varieties include Roasted Tomato Cilantro, Stone Ground Blue, and Garlic Jalapeno and Chipotle Sesame. A quote by Bayless on the label of the Chipotle Sesame chips describes the snack as “Smoky, spicy, nutty--perfect flavors to burst against stone-ground corn.” The product is seasoned with a “Chipotle chile powder” consisting of paprika, ancho chiles, mild New Mexico chiles, garlic chips, cumin, Chipotle chiles, Mexican oregano, coriander and cloves.

His Frontera line, named after his first restaurant, consists of sauces and salsas intended to add great flavor and complexity to recipes derived from the central and southern regions of Mexico. The line includes Frontera Fire-Roasted Salsas That Cook, Hot Sauce, Barbecue and Grill Sauces, Mexican snack mixes and organic tortilla chips. His Salpica salsa line broadens the range of Latin flavors available for home cooking.

“We can procure special ingredients to bring the unique flavors of these Mexican regions to a much wider audience,” says Bayless, who has an arm-length list of culinary distinctions that include Food and Wine magazine's Best New Chef of 1988 to Best American Chef: Midwest and National Chef of the Year from the James Beard Foundation, and countless awards and distinctions from national publications and culinary organizations.

Bayless also offers a high-end line of products for foodservice under the Topolo brand, distributed exclusively by Williams-Sonoma (San Francisco). The products are distributed through natural food stores, high-end grocery stores and over the Internet at www.fronterakitchens.com.

The www.fronterakitchens.com site also has information on Rick Bayless, his restaurants and his publications. It includes a tab entitled “Cooking and Entertainment” that offers advice on tools of the trade such as a tamale steamer, lime juicer and the mortar or molcajete.