AUTHENTIC AUSHMENTIC - Bayless vs. Gold
“You have to accept the fact that sometimes you are the pigeon, and sometimes you
are the statue.” Claude Chabrol
There’s been a bitchfest in the Mexi-food press recently between chef/restaurateur Rick Bayless and Jonathan Gold, revered L.A. Weekly food critic. Seems Gold (and some self-styled experts on Mexican cuisine) claim that Bayless, who is involved in a new restaurant in L.A., said he’s going to show California what REAL Mexican food is. The high and mighty Gold says 'how dare he! We have our own cuisine here' etc. Forget it. A lot of hokum. Nobody’s listening to what anyone really said. Just click here to read the whole story.
Sounds to me like those Hollywood-ites just can’t be told nothin’. You’d think there would be room for everybody in the sprawling multi-culti Angelino culinary scene. Apparently not. I see not a hint of prepotency in Bayless’ offer to bring his (mostly) central and southern Mexican cooking to California. Nobody ever said it was brand new there. Certainly not Bayless. I think it’s sour grapes. Pure jealousy. The same nonsense has been going down here in the old country for decades vis-à-vis Diana Kennedy. The D.F. Food Mafia never liked the idea of an extranjera telling them what-for. Sure, there have been other food writers and recipe collectors here, but none so completist as this great lady, and none in English. After more than 40 years of grueling work, the Brittish diva has finally been recognized here, perhaps reluctantly by some, for what she’s worth. She's the person most responsible for educating the world about true Mexican cooking. And Rick Bayless has, in a sense, taken it one step further by promoting an understanding of this extraordinary world cuisine in a manner accessible to a larger public. I hope he doesn’t have to wait for his 90th birthday to be recognized for it. “Authentic” is a Mad Men word, used to sell books, in Bayless' case. We’ve all got something to sell. I think I’ll skip the burritos and go out for some tacos de guisado and wait for the dust to settle.
READER'S COMMENTS:Anonymous September 3, 2010
As a fan of your blog, a past resident of Mexico and a long-time current one of Los Angeles, I have to respectfully disagree. The idea that Rick Bayless (who I am also a fan of) can 'introduce' us to Central or Southern Mexican cooking is ludicrous. The depth and complexity of Mexican food in L.A. is astounding.
A much better link than the one you provided can be found here:
You'll hear, for yourself, Rick Bayless claiming HE'S going to introduce "true" flavors to us backwards residents of Los Angeles.
KE September 3, 2010
I agree - a mistake to take on LA. There is every sort of Mexican Food prepared and sold by Mexicans from Mexico in LA. The public is educated from birth and are well seasoned eaters of all types of Mexican food high and low. I agree it's not the midwest or east and he would be better off opening in Hawaii or La Vegas where there would be an appreciative crowd for his good cooking and less authenic low price competition.
" Slamming Gold for his appearance is jerky. If you don't like his hole in the wall eatery reviews, read S. Irene instead.
Red O is pricey Mexican "influenced" food. It's like a fake Louis Vuitton bag. Still nice but not the real thing. For any Angeleno who knows their Mexican food, this is a far cry from anything we're accustomed to. Big deal. Apples and oranges. Bayless has made a career introducing "Mexican" food to people who live in the Mid West. This being LA, he was setting himself up for criticism. The food at Red O is okay. Better if you're drinking and the cocktails are good! The atmosphere was nice and our group had a good time but will I be back for the fare? Naaa... better places to blow my money.
Gold has his tastes and Bayless has his. So what... To each his own. I like my bags and my Mexican food to be 100% authentic and traditional. "
firstname.lastname@example.org September 3, 2010
I guess it all depends where one tasted Mexican food first. For me it was in Mexico and on my return to the states I could never find anything as good as I had in Mexico. If you are having your first Mexican food in LA, you probaly think this is the best. I found the flavor I had experienced in Mexico for the first time at Rick Bayless' Frontera Grill in Chicago. And the food is absolutely not imitation. There is no other chef serving Mexican food that for 30 years has lived some years in Mexico and continues to travel there several times a year to continue his research. He is fluent in Spanish and counts many Mexican celebrity chefs and home cooks his friends.
Dan M. September 4, 2010
BRAVO Nick for telling it like it OUGHT TO BE!
Anonymous September 6, 2010
There's no doubt that Rick Bayless has elevated the consciousness of millions of people as regards Mexican food. He hasn't cooked in his restaurants for more than a decade, though. What he has become is a 'pitch man' for his wide-flung enterprises and, in the true marketing sense, he tends to exaggerate what he does. Take his Xoco restaurant in Chicago, as an example - where at every opportunity he tells anyone who listens that what he's presenting is 'street food' as found and eaten in Mexico. That menu, with the exception of churros and hot chocolate, though, would be mostly unrecognizable to Mexicans. More competition is preferrable to less, so I wish him success in his consulting project in LA.
Jorge D September 24, 2010
I for one am amazed at all this controversy, Both are masters of their own trait, neither cooks authentic Mexican food, and why should they, most foreigners run for the hills as soon as words like menudo and cow cheeks are offered at the table.
As for Gold, what is his problem, if you like chicano food, just say that, no need to insult a creative mind and don't call it Mexican food, its not.
Mexican influenced is the proper term and it can be delicious, the problem is chefs make ridiculous claims so we consider their food, Yet I don't believe anyone should claim authentic unless they are committing to leaving aside their creative talent and focus in preparing 100% traditional recipes with the correct ingredients, presented in it historic form. If they can do that, then they can call it Mexican. I like Rick Bayless take on Mexican food is creative and smart, I hope he is successful, he just needs to keep his creativity under control, Mexican food is amazing stuff, sophisticated and highly technical, it deserves respect. just as we respect traditional French.
Nicholas Gilman replies:
We have to be careful of using the word "authentic". Authentic to what and to whom? As I previously stated, in Bayless' case it is more of a marketing term than anything else. He tries (successfully, in my experience) to re-create dishes found in Mexico, as they are made there. He did a lot to educate Americans who thought Mexican food was burritos and Taco Bell. As for L.A., I don't know it or its food well enough to judge, but the Mexican/latino food I have eaten there tasted nothing like what we eat in 'real' Mexico, but was not necessarily bad. I think many L.A. residents think, because there are immigrant communities there, both Latino and Asian, that their food is exactly the same and as good as in their home countries, i.e. "authentic". That they "know" Mexican food.Ot Thai etc. I don't think this can be true. People necessarily adapt to local ingredients (or the lack of them)and customs (in the US most foods are not made and grown by hand or artisinally. So things change. Case in point: those big fat California burritos. Not Mexican. Not necessarily bad food (well, that's arguable). Just an example.
Anonymous October 4, 2010
Frankly I don't like the food sold at Rick Bayless' places. Its not especially authentic or well prepared. I do not appreciate the liberties he takes with classic dishes and I think his quality control stinks. So.. Dame un tepache de pina.. un huarache de maiz azul and que se Ricky Bayless se calla la boca.. ;)