Chef Rick Bayless’ garden

“Rick Bayless is award-winning chef-restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality and has done more than any other culinary star to introduce Americans to authentic Mexican cuisine and to change the image of Mexican food in America.” That’s from his bio. I didn’t know any of that when a group of about 50 garden bloggers descended on his garden in 2009 for the Garden Bloggers meet-up in Chicago. In Chicago, he’s very well-known for his restaurants Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and others. 

His star has risen even more since then. Being one of the Obama family’s favorite hometown chefs, he prepared the meal for the Whitehouse’s state dinner honoring Mexican president Felipe Calderon last May ’10. Not a bad gig if you can get it.
For a voyeur gardener like myself, getting a chance to see the garden where he cooks, entertains and grows food for his restaurants, was a good gig too. He was not there when we were, but the gardener in charge of the garden was, and showed us around. The production garden and plantings are taken care of by a gardener and one assistant, as well as by Rick himself, given the time.
This garden was one of the highlights of the Chicago trip. I hadn’t posted about it back then because 49 other garden bloggers did, and I felt I didn’t have much to add. We’ll, that was about a year and a half ago. Time to post!
Not only is this a casual blend of perennial garden & leisure space, but it’s a production garden for his restaurants. This generous-sized city lot provides thousands of dollars worth of baby lettuces, vegetables and herbs for his businesses. I was most impressed by the micro climate growing conditions of the garden, which they have down to a science. Exacting sunlight conditions are known for every square inch of the place. Temperature fluctuations throughout the day, reflected heat off a large stone wall abutting the garden, and where shade falls at different points of the day are taken into consideration when deciding what and when to plant. It’s 100% organic, takes advantage of rain barrels and they make all compost on-site.
Entering by the front gate, first thing you see is the outdoor kitchen area.
Every weekend barbecue chef needs a grill, pizza oven, and a stage.

Imagine the great meals prepared here.
Looking from the kitchen area towards the rest of the garden. To the left is the
side garden. To the right is the boardwalk alongside the house.
Side garden from the boardwalk alongside the house.
Boardwalk & containers on the side of the house overlooking the side
garden and back toward the kitchen. That’s Kylee of Our Little Acre.
The production garden behind the house, looking to the back of the prooperty.
Plants along this wall on the right need the warmth provided by the wall.
Shade from the wall was calculated as well.
Many baby lettuces are growing, with scheduled
multiple replantings throughout the season.
The arbor/trellis entertaining area. That’s Susan Harris
(Sustainable & Urban Gardening/Garden Rant) dead center in the pink.
Looking from the back deck towards the kitchen area and street.
No veggies or herbs here, just perennials, shrubs & tropicals in pots.
The single concept my garden shares with this is that some areas are formal
in layout and others are more English-style or chaotic.
Some areas of the back looked Mexican, or Tuscan in style, this area, with large boulders and all
green-leafed plants with no flowers looked Asian in influence.
Containers filled almost any bare spot.
This wall along the patio/dining area had a rustic, Mexican flavor
Apple espaliers. Something of which I have in my own garden.
Just missing some gin & tonics.
The deck was cut out around the boulders.
Lots of climbing vines. Here’s the wisteria.
Not only the garden plot here had vegetables,
but so did the building’s balcony & roof.
This garden, as well thought out and engineered as it is,
produces thousands of dollars worth of produce for the restaurants.
There’s no way to capture the whole space. This is as large a shot as could be made.
Immaculate work area has plastic panels on top
and becomes large cold frame in early spring.
Tomato (mostly cages at this point) plants along the warm wall.
The deck was built around these boulders. It gave an Asian feel to this area of the garden.
Elizabeth of Garden Rant/Gardening While Intoxicated.
All in all, a garden to aspire to. Except for the production garden.
That sounded like work. But for Chef Bayless, it’s a profit-generating garden.

0 comments on “Chef Rick Bayless’ garden

  1. Jim, That is a fascinating tour of a productrive garden that is also quite beautiful. The boulder deck looks especially nice.


  2. Wow. Amazing. Having a serious case of garden envy right now, particularly on the coldest darn day of the year. Thanks Jim 🙂


  3. Cyndy,See the things you can see at blogger's meet-ups? I liked the boulder deck too, but there were so many great aspects to this garden it was hard to concentrate! I'd do the same, but I'd have to start with a boulder. And more space.rbdgreen,You'll have a nice garden someday Rox. I can see kitchen garden in your future.


  4. Awesome photos and great memories. Thanks! Hope to see you in Seattle.


  5. Susan,I loved this garden. I don't think Seattle can happen for me — it's the weekend before Garden Walk and the fourth weekend of the National Garden Festival. I already know of two parties I'll be expected to attend here. I was kinda' hoping the meet-up would be in spring again!


  6. Good memories, Jim. I enjoyed seeing your images of this wonderful garden.


  7. Anonymous

    Many things in this garden reminded me of your garden. Nice tour.


  8. Pam,Thanks. I think this was my favorite garden in Chicago out of the very many great gardens we saw. Though nothing tops the Lurie.GWGT,I'm highly complimented! I think the only thing we have in common is that I incorporated a vegetable garden into my backyard too. Mine is not so profitable!


  9. Impressive garden and great post – thanks for posting and explaining the details. Good, that you didn't abandon the idea of posting after so many months :)There is one thing I'd like to ask you – how big do you think is that production garden?


  10. Ewa,I would estimate the garden to be about 40 feet wide by 80 feet long. It's just a guess, but it was about the footprint of the house itself. And it was a big house!


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