Chicago Chef Rick Bayless Accepts Julia Child Award at Smithsonian Food History Gala

Frontera Founder Donates His Chef Jacket, Field Notes From Research in Mexico and Other Artifacts From Early Career; José Andrés, Kim Severson and Scott Simon To Be Featured Speakers

Chicago chef, writer and humanitarian Rick Bayless is donating objects that represent his early career to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The new collection will be unveiled as Bayless accepts the 2016 Julia Child Award from The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts during the museum’s second annual Smithsonian Food History Gala Thursday, Oct. 27.

Bayless is an American chef who specializes in traditional Mexican cuisine with modern interpretations. Born into a family of restaurateurs, Bayless began cooking as a teen, when he also visited Mexico for the first time. In 1980, he moved to Mexico with his wife Deann and spent years learning about Mexican foodways. His first cookbook, Authentic Mexican (1987), was followed by eight more on Mexico’s regional cuisines. He opened his first restaurant, Frontera Grill, in Chicago in 1987 and has since opened six restaurants and created a line of Mexican-inspired prepared foods.

The Bayless collection includes a number of objects and archival materials that represent the beginnings of his career; of particular interest are field notes and the small typewriter from his years traveling through Mexico, dishware from his Frontera Grill and Topolobampo restaurants and his chef’s coat and apron from Frontera Grill. A small selection of the materials will be on view near Julia Child’s kitchen in the “FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000” exhibition Oct. 27–30. Bayless will sign his most recent book, More Mexican Everyday, Thursday, Oct. 27, for visitors.

“We are so pleased to welcome Chef Bayless to the nation’s history museum and are grateful that he is sharing his experiences with the American public,” said John Gray, director of the museum. “Through restaurants, books and TV shows, he brought Mexican foods and flavors to broader audiences, just as Julia Child did for French cooking.”

An independent jury selected Bayless as the second recipient of the Julia Child Award in May on behalf of The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts.

“The Julia Child Award is an annual reminder of the values Julia shared with the American public and at the same time recognizes someone who is carrying on that culinary torch,” said Eric W. Spivey, chairman of the foundation. “The museum is the perfect place to host the award ceremony and the foundation believes the jury made the perfect choice in selecting Rick Bayless as the second recipient.”

The gala is a black-tie fundraising dinner to benefit the programs and exhibitions of the museum’s Smithsonian Food History Project. The evening and other weekend activities are made possible through the support of the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance, the lead sponsor for the Food History Weekend and The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts. Additional support for the weekend is provided by Clark Construction Group LLC, John Deere, the Brewers Association, Nordic Ware, Vincent Szwajkowski and Alexandra Nemerov and Wegmans.

Bayless created the three-course menu for the evening and guests will enjoy Shrimp and Scallop Ceviche Verde, Carne Asada in Mole Negro and Mesquite chocolate cake. Wines paired with the meal have been provided by Margerum Wine Co., Alma Rosa Winery and Vineyards, and Andrew Murray Vineyards. Beers paired with the meal have been provided by Alaskan Brewing Co., Allagash Brewing Co., Dogfish Head Brewery and New Belgium Brewing Co.

Kim Severson, national food correspondent with the New York Times will serve as the evening’s emcee. José Andrés, recent recipient of two Michelin stars and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup and minibar by José Andrés, and Scott Simon, writer, broadcaster, contributor to CBS Sunday Morning and host of NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday, will be featured speakers during the gala.

The evening kicks off the Smithsonian Food History Weekend, a cornerstone of Smithsonian Food History. Running Oct. 27–29 this year, the museum gathers culinary leaders, researchers, practitioners and scholars for three days of events. This year, in addition to the gala, the museum will present a day of free roundtable conversations with chefs, historians and experts; an evening dine-out at local restaurants; a free daylong festival with hands-on activities and live cooking demonstrations; and a ticketed evening program about the history of beer in America. Featured participants for the weekend include food and agriculture leaders and authors Dan Charles, Marion Nestle, Carlos Castaneda, Elizabeth Hoover, NPR’s Kitchen Sisters, Jane and Michael Stern, Alex Prud’homme, Adrian Miller, Cathy Barrow and others, as well as chefs Rock Harper, Dorie Greenspan, Ailsa von Dobeneck and more. A full calendar of events is available here:

The National Museum of American History

The National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. The museum helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. It takes food history and many related topics to the nation through its exhibitions, ongoing research and collecting efforts, online offerings and dynamic public programs. For more information about Smithsonian Food History, visit For more information about the museum, visit

The museum is located on Constitution Avenue, between 12th and 14th streets N.W., and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.

The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts

The Julia Child Foundation for Gastronomy and the Culinary Arts was created by Julia in 1995 and became operational in 2004. Headquartered in Santa Barbara, Calif., the foundation is a non-profit which makes grants to support research in culinary history, scholarships for professional culinary training, internships in food writing as well as professional development and food literacy programs. Over the past decade, the foundation has made more than $1.25 million in grants to other non-profits. Information about the foundation can be found at Information about the award is available at

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Valeska Hilbig

Megan Salocks