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Chef Fri Aug 14 2009
A blogger recently griped about why Rick Bayless gets so much attention for his vast knowledge of Mexican cuisine. Especially because he's, well, white.
"Something just bugged me that a white guy was gaining so much fame for his Mexican cuisine. I'm sure his love of Mexico is genuine and he does good charity work. I'm not saying he's a bad guy, and he is a great chef. But why does the media make him the spokesman for Mexican food in the United States?
You can accuse me of being too politically correct. But how would the French feel if their premier chef celebrated by the media in France wasn't French at all?"
This issue is interesting to me. The best Italian food in my family was made by my non-Italian mother, who learned the trade of the mangia from my grandparents' very knowledgeable housekeeper. She could turn out a mean braciole in red sauce just as easily as a plate of dull American fare. I'm very picky about eating at Italian restaurants in town, because I've already eaten the best.
My mom was a versatile chef. But was she an interloper? Were her dishes not authentic? No. Like any cook, she learned and perfected the recipes. So is criticism of Bayless made out of jealousy--that a skinny white guy with a goatee who lives and breathes Mexican food is more highly regarded than someone who actually is Mexican and cooking the same food? I think so. Food is food and great food is great food, regardless of who cooks it and what they look like.