A group of local chefs continued their effort to support the ongoing tornado recovery effort in several Oklahoma communities.
On Monday, they had the help of one of the most famous chefs in the country.
Celebrity chef Rick Bayless, the author of nine cookbooks and the star of the long-running PBS series “Mexico: One Plate at a Time,” arrived Sunday to join the OK Chefs Relief effort. On Monday, he set up three pop-up restaurants, each based on one of Bayless' Mexican restaurants in Chicago.
Bayless said Sunday he was inspired to come to the aid of the tornado-stricken communities by the first OK Chefs Relief effort over the Memorial Day weekend.
“As soon as I heard about the first event, I wanted to do something to help,” Bayless said. “I've been working with Kurt Fleischfresser, and I was thrilled with the opportunity to come back to the place I grew up and share the flavors we do in Chicago.”
Bayless, 59, was born and raised in Oklahoma City. His parents owned and operated the Hickory House barbecue restaurant, which is where Bayless learned the restaurant business. A graduate of Northwest Classen High School, and the owner of Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and Xoco in Chicago, he also graduated from the University of Oklahoma before moving north to chase his graduate studies.
In addition to opening three renowned restaurants in Chicago, writing books and hosting television programs, Bayless has developed a line of food products under the Frontera banner that are available at most grocery stores.
On Monday, he started his triple pop-up with a taqueria-style pop-up at Leadership Square. People spent $10 for three tacos and a bottle of water, with 100 percent of donations taken by UMB Bank and The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma going toward tornado recovery in Moore, the Shawnee area and El Reno.
Later Monday night, he hosted two events at the Will Rogers Theatre complex. In The Tasting Room, 40 guests paid $500 each for an intimate dinner party that included a cooking demonstration, a signed copy of Bayless' book “Frontera Margarita, Guacamoles and Snacks” and a five-course dinner. Another 240 guests paid $60 for a family-style dinner by Bayless served family style in the Will Rogers Theatre auditorium.
OK Chefs Relief has now raised about a $125,000 in three days of service, including five pop-up concepts.
Bayless' mother, Levita Anderson, and his sister, LuAnn Tucker, still live in Oklahoma City. His brother, Skip Bayless, is a host on ESPN's “First Take.”