Sweet Homes Chicago: Rick Bayless

February 23, 2010 7:23:17 AM PST
For seven seasons on PBS, award-winning chef-restaurateur Rick Bayless has been introducing us to fabulous Mexican cuisine, and at the same time, bringing us inside his home, most of the more than 100 episodes so far were shot in his own kitchen in a two-story home right here in Chicago.But what you rarely see is the entire first floor, which used be a polka lounge.

"We moved in here about 14 years ago, and it's a very unique piece of property with lots and lots of personality," Bayless said. "It was one of those classic Chicago taverns on a street corner right next to a church.

"The ceiling is a classic pressed tin ceiling; it's almost 100 years old," he said.

Bayless and his wife transformed the open space into a very comfortable, cozy single-family home filled with their love of food and traveling.

"These are the beautiful coffee table books I love to collect. Do I read them all? Can't say I do," Bayless said. "There are a lot of pieces either from markets in Mexico or from really famous artisans, like this piece here from the western side of Mexico; everything lovingly put onto this ceramic piece."

In the dining area is a one-of-a-kind custom table that opens up to seat 25.

"As you can imagine, you need to build a support underneath it to support that kind of extension," Bayless said.

Speaking of underneath, something else you never see on the show is the basement. It is where Bayless has his prep kitchen, stocked floor to ceiling with thousands of dishes and glasses. It's also where he has his herb garden. They stay indoors for the winter and out during summer.

And we cannot tour the house without talking about the kitchen. Viewers often want to know how Rick Bayless remodeled his kitchen. Here's the answer. It was completely redone with traditional knotty pine cabinets, a butcher block center island and what he calls an indestructible countertop.

"I chose soap stone. You can set pots directly on it," Bayless said. "We've got a lot of it in the restaurant, the reason we use it, love it, it will not stain."

And the most common question he gets? What kind of stove does he have?

"It's got all the power that I need, low flame, this is my pride and joy, gas oven, electric oven. Call me a geek, I love my stove," Bayless said.

And just what's inside this culinary star's fridge?

"It's messy, like everyone else, take a look... leftovers. You have labels, always have champagne just in case," he said.