If you’re excited about Rick Bayless and his restaurant empire, then you would probably get a kick out of tromping through his backyard kitchen, sniffing around his edible garden and sitting under his arbor. I like Rick just fine and in the interest of culinary discovery, I took the $20 tour of his back yard.
The Bayless family lives in Bucktown and has two and half lots filled with production, hanging and perennial gardens behind his house. Bill Shores, who’s been Rick’s gardener for the last five years, manages the gardens here and on the roof above Xoco. He was also our guide for the hour-long tour.
Most of our time centered on the 1000 sq. foot production garden where Shores grows lettuces, herbs and micro-greens for use in Rick’s restaurants. As it’s so small, I wasn’t surprised to learn the garden doesn’t produce enough to supply them 100%. And though Shores follows organic methods, the gardens aren’t certified organic due to paperwork and using non-organic seeds.
Shores keeps the arable land under constant cultivation, bulking up the soil with organic fertilizer and compost. Between a greenhouse and cold houses, the gardens do produce something year-round. Shores also pays particular attention to the beneficial insects in the garden, and plants herbs and flowers that would appeal to them. Keeping good bugs happy is an easy form of pest control.
Other than a few tidbits I picked up on gardening, the biggest value of the tour was being in the space that Rick uses for entertaining, gardening and creating his television shows. I also got to peek in his kitchen and see what he had posted on his refrigerator. What more could a fan want?
More pictures from the tour (click to enlarge):