Bayless visits Northwestern for Frontera Fresco grand opening

Patricia Telles-Irvin and Provost Daniel Linzer look on as Chef Rick Bayless cuts the ribbon for Frontera Fresco's grand opening celebration on Wednesday in Norris.

Melody Song/The Daily Northwestern

Patricia Telles-Irvin and Provost Daniel Linzer look on as Chef Rick Bayless cuts the ribbon for Frontera Fresco’s grand opening celebration on Wednesday in Norris.

Jillian Sandler, Campus Editor

Celebrity chef Rick Bayless came to Northwestern on Wednesday for the grand opening of his restaurant, Frontera Fresco, the first one he has established on a college campus.

The opening, which took place on the ground floor of Norris University Center, featured a ribbon-cutting ceremony, book signing and free samples of chips and guacamole and desserts. Multiple administrators praised the restaurant before the cutting of the ribbon, including Provost Dan Linzer, vice president for Student Affairs Patricia Telles-Irvin and vice president for Student Auxiliary Services Julie Payne-Kirchmeier.

Frontera opened Nov. 30 in response to student requests for more fresh, locally sourced food on campus. Bayless said expanding the restaurant to a college campus is a good way to combine his passions for food and education.

“It gives us an opportunity to introduce people to an aspect of culture they might not know about,” Bayless said. “It’s about me showing you what the sources of my inspirations are in Mexico … (and) extending education into food service here at Northwestern.”

Linzer said the effect of Frontera’s establishment extends beyond the confines of Norris.

“(We are) creating a Northwestern experience that reaches out to the community and brings them together, and there’s no better way to do (that) than through food,” he said.

Bayless signed several of his cookbooks for attendees. McCormick junior Glenn Fellman, who had his copy signed, said he has been a longtime fan of Bayless’ cooking.

“My mom’s a really good cook and Rick Bayless is one of the first good chefs I got into on my own,” he said. “I’ve had an affinity to his cooking for a while.”

Habib Osman, Sodexo’s operations manager for retail dining on NU’s Evanston campus, wrote in an email that over 15,000 transactions have taken place at Frontera since its opening. The store has sold over 10,000 tacos and just under 3,000 tortas, Osman’s email said.

Osman said the on-campus presence of a restaurant owned by a celebrity chef and the food it provides are great assets for the University.

“The quality, standards, recipes we follow are great,” he said. “It’s really great to have this as part of our team and portfolio.”

Bayless said people can improve their cooking through attending farmers’ markets and interacting with others there. He said these establishments, which he called  “modern town square(s) (where) everyone can rub shoulders, share information and talk,” can help attendees learn how food is grown and how to cook fresh and interesting dishes.

Payne-Kirchmeier said Frontera has brought a new type of dining to campus that students have been craving.

“We have students on this campus who are very savvy about food and we want to meet and exceed those expectations and Frontera helps us with that beautifully,” she said.

Bayless said he is pleased thus far with the establishment of his restaurant at NU. He said he does not yet know whether he’ll expand to other campuses.

“(We are taking) things one step at a time,” he said. “We want to make sure this one works well first.”