Award-winning chef and host of the PBS show, Mexico - One Plate At A Time, Rick Bayless says he puts together a playlist like he puts together a menu, with a focus on balance. He specializes in Mexican cuisine but his musical tastes span the world, with gems from France, Cuba and the United States. Bayless, who won the Top Chef Masters title in 2009, recently opened his first LA restaurant Red-O and has a new cookbook called Fiesta at Rick’s.
Fore More: http://www.rickbayless.com/
1. Marieta - Ibrahim Ferrer Buena Vista Social Club
2. Love and Happiness - Al Green
3. Mademoiselle - Henri Salvador
4. Tempo Perdido - Pink Martini
5. Santa Maria (del Buen Ayre) - Gotan Project
Raul Campos: Hey, it's Raul Campos here from KCRW and I'm here with award-winning chef and restauranteur, Rick Bayless, who is the master of modern Mexican cuisine. He hosts the PBS show, Mexico - One Plate At A Time and he just opened his first restaurant in Los Angeles -- Red O. Today we're going to be playing excerpts of songs that have inspired him over the years as a part of KCRW's Guest DJ Project. What did you bring in for us today?
Rick Bayless: Well, let's start with Buena Vista Social Club.
One of the first albums, a song called "Marieta." This has a very special place in my heart, mostly because when I was working on Mexico - One Plate At A Time, I fell in love with this song and every time I would sit down to write, I would put this song on to get me back into the groove of what I was doing.
It's got such an incredible rhythm to it -- just bears you right along. You can't help but just be engulfed in it. And then when you start to tease apart the lyrics in Spanish, you realize what an incredible tale is being told here about sort of, being released into the party atmosphere and finding yourself kind of lost in it.
I'm being very nice because there's sort of raunchy parts to it, too (laughs).
RB: Most people think that cooking is a matter of following some recipes and some techniques that you've mastered, but yeah it's the techniques but it's not just the ingredients that are measured out, it's the feel for what those ingredients really are calling you to do at any given moment.
Same sort of thing, I think happens in music -- that's why I think there's such a great parallel between music and preparation of food or even enjoying food at the table, because you start to taste something and then the taste begins to evolve and then the conversation starts to evolve and then the next thing you know, the whole thing is just moving together and if you've got some beautiful music that's going to carry you along in that same vibe, then you've got a real party on your hands.
RC: That was Ibrahim Ferrer and Buena Vista Social Club, "Marieta" is the tune. Our Guest DJ is Mr. Rick Bayless. We're off to a great start, what's the next tune that we're going to get into?
RB: Very early Al Green -- "Love And Happiness" -- another thing that I think is always a key to setting a cool vibe for a party. It's got that rhythm & blues funkiness to it that just makes you move and I always like to put together a playlist for an evening with my family or friends that will make everyone sway in their seats and you can help but to sway to Al Green.
RB: Everyone really enjoys the grooviness of it and the same feel about putting together a playlist that I have about putting together my menu. You know, you wanna start off with something that gonna wake up the palate like "Marieta", and then you want to kinda calm it down a little bit and go into a groovier vibe and have people just relax into the evening before you start ramping it up again.
We always put Al Green on to wash dishes, you know, because you can you can kind of dance while you're washing the dishes. My daughter called me from camp one time when she was about, I think maybe 12 years old - I think it was her first sleep-away camp - and she asked me to send her a copy of Al Green because when they had to clean the cabin, all she wanted to do was put on Al Green. That made me a very proud papa.
RC: The Reverend Al Green right here on KCRW.com, selected by our guest DJ, Mr. Rick Bayless. Rick, what's the next one we're going to get into?
RB: It's an old fellow from France - Henri Salvador. He was born in Caribbean. He has had a very, very long life singing in France. I was there one time visiting some French friends and they turned me on to him. He has this croon-ery voice, but he's got all the swing and sway of the Caribbean and singing just a kind of unexpected song, "Mademoiselle" and the album is called Chambre Avec Vue - The Room With A View.
RB: Every single place that I go, I try to find young people, especially, that can take me to a music store and tell me what’s hot and get an understanding of what that is. Then I go to the old folks and I say, 'What's classic?' and, 'Tell me what I should take home from here.' And I've had the wonderful opportunity to travel all over the world and literally, every single country I've been to, I have gone to a CD store with somebody from there to get a tour of the musical culture because, to me, it's super important when I'm cooking, when I'm entertaining, to have really cool music to play.
RC: Henri Salvador, right here on KCRW.com. "Mademoiselle" is the tune selected by our guest DJ, Mr. Rick Bayless of Mexico - One Plate At A Time and Red O Restaurant. So we're going to switch it up again. This next tune we're going to get into has a little more bossa feel with Pink Martini, right?
RB: (laughs) Yeah. You know, well Pink Martini is a lot like I am -- they can sort of do anything and even though I'm incredibly well-known for cooking Mexican food, I like to cook everything under the sun. I've tried to tackle - and with some success -- a lot of other cuisines as well, as Pink Martini has tackled practically every musical genre known to man and they sing in all these different languages, they really capture the feel of different things and yet, at the same time, it's always Pink Martini. You always know that it's China Forbes singing and Thomas Lauderdale at the piano.
RC: That was Pink Martini, "Tempo Perdido." Rick Bayless is our Guest DJ selecting the tunes and we're going to get into one more and I'm really feeling these guys right now-- they're from Paris, but they do a lot of tango-influenced vibe. Introduce this next tune.
RB: I had come across Gotan Project a couple of times over the years, then I was in a store in Los Angeles – this really, really cool antique store -- and the owner of the store was playing nothing but Gotan Project. And, by the time I left there, I was totally in love with Gotan Project.
RB: I love the way that they weave in that sort of new style tango stuff to very electronic stuff. It's probably, of this playlist, the edgiest thing that you'll find and yet it still has that real strong Latin feel that I'm always drawn to.
RB: We live a world that has influences from all over. To me, I don't think we should turn our backs on them. I'm a huge traditionalist, but at the same time, I have watched the evolution of Mexican cooking over the last 30 years. I've read about the evolution of Mexican cooking for the last 500 years. And anything that stops evolving tends to just die. I think it's certainly true in music and it's equally as true in food, and so if you occasionally see more modern influences coming into my cooking, it's because they make sense to me.
Just like when you listen to Gotan Project, it makes sense that you got Nuevo-Tango mixed with some dance beats. This particular song that I have chosen, "Santa Maria," it's been re-recorded over and over and over again with many different takes on it, so it's super cool.
RC: "Santa Maria" right here by Gotan Project right here on KCRW. Our guest DJ has been Rick Bayless. Thank you so much for coming through.
RB: Oh, it's absolutely my pleasure. This was one of the most enjoyable projects I've ever worked on.
RC: For a complete tracklisting and to find these songs online, go to kcrw.com/guestdjproject