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A Master of Inspiration


What you’re going to see today is the stuff that has inspired me forever.”

With those words, celebrity chef Rick Bayless kicked off the Taste of Chicago Tour at the 2015 Convenience Store News Foodservice Summit held March 10–11 in partnership with Tyson Convenience Foodservice. The exclusive trolley tour, led by Bayless, featured stops at six eateries — all with an eye on learning for the convenience foodservice executives in attendance.

Bayless may be best known for winning Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters” competition with his authentic Mexican cuisine. He has eight cookbooks and operates several award-winning restaurants in Chicago, including the casual Frontera Grill, the four-star Toplobampo, the fast-casual Xoco, and the quickservice Tortas Frontera that has changed the face of foodservice at O’Hare International Airport.

“None of the places we’re going today use the word ‘concept.’ They just make food like their families have been making food for years,” Bayless explained as the trolley made its way to the neighborhood of Pilsen, considered the port of entry for many Mexican immigrants to the Windy City.

The six destinations on the tour included:

  • Don Pedro Carnitas — C-store retailers got a view of the front and back of the house of this family-owned restaurant known for its authentic Mexican cooking and warm customer service.
  • Birrieria Reyes de Ocotlan Restaurant — A quick-stop “joint” known for its juicy and flavorful goat.
  • Restaurant La Casa del Pueblo — A grocery store plus food stop.
  • El Popocatepetl — A tortilla factory known to aficionados as “El Popo” that has expanded from a hidden gem of the city’s restaurant industry to a popular local spot.
  • Lao Sze Chuan — A cool and edgy Asian restaurant unique for its high-energy atmosphere.
  • Xoco — Bayless’ own restaurant famous for its golden churros and bean-to-cup hot chocolate.

On the way to each destination, Bayless treated the convenience foodservice executives to stories of how he discovered each spot and why they stand out in his mind. And, of course, keeping with the tour’s “Taste of Chicago” title, attendees were served a biteful at each stop personally picked by Bayless.

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