Meet & Eat: Rick Bayless

Author's Note: For this week's Cook the Book column we're featuring Fiesta at Rick's by champion of Mexican cuisine, entertainer extraordinaire, and Top Chef Master Rick Bayless. We sat down with Rick to talk about throwing killer parties, the qualities of a great host, and of course, his newly released book. —The Mgmt.

20100703-rickbayless-main.jpgCan you tell us a little bit about the concept behind Fiesta at Rick's? Fiesta at Rick's is an entertaining blueprint (if you will) to hosting casual get-togethers at an outdoor shindig or hosting a truly epic celebration that your guests will never forget. Everything from playlists to equipment sources to table settings...

How often do you entertain and what is your favorite meal to host? I love to entertain outside at the grill. We entertain a lot. We love throwing parties. One of my all-time favorite summer parties is our annual Oklahoma barbecue party. It's where I recreate all of the famous dishes I used to make growing up in our family restaurant, The Hickory House, back in Oklahoma City. It's a blast.

What are some items you always keep on hand for impromptu entertaining? An awesome playlist, a great bottle of wine or Champagne, and if I have a can of chipotles and fresh greens from my garden—I am set.

Are there a few tips you can share for alleviating the stress that sometimes accompanies entertaining? Yes! Plan your timeline. I have a Fiesta Game Plan for every party in Fiesta at Rick's. Special equipment, timeline, serving strategy, and embellishments. Having that planned out alleviates the stress and allows you to enjoy your party. No one wants to see the host stressed out.

Aside from being a great cook, what are some other qualities that a great host possesses? Making each guest feel comfortable—whether it's by seating them with someone interesting or offering them their favorite drink. I like to bring out special mescals at the end of the meal—something unexpected the guests couldn't get anywhere else.

What are some of the best parties you've attended and what was on the menu? YIKES...that is hard! On my fiftieth birthday my wife planned an all-day party. It was a blast—it started at my house with mariachis, tequila and doughnuts, then moved around the city, ending back at my house with all of my favorites—sushi, Thai, and Mexican (of course!).

Why do you think that Mexican lends itself especially well to feeding a crowd? I think the Mexican culture and the people have it figured out. Eat conservatively during the week and when it's time to celebrate—blow the roof off. Huge pots of mole, paella, tamales—all make sharing and celebrating easy.

Can you describe an ideal party menu taken from Fiesta at Rick's? One would be a Classic Mexican Mole Fiesta for 24, a Mexican "crudite" platter with Chamoy dipping sauce, lacquered Chicken in Classic Red Mole, Mexican white rice with plantains, café de olla flan, icy beer Micheladas. Now if that sounds far-reaching, I also love the Guacamole Luxury Bar: garlicky habenero macadamia nuts, roasted garlic guacamole with help yourself garnishes (crispy bacon, crumbled fresh cheese, toasted pumpkin seeds, pickled jalapenos). Toppings to customize each bite of guacamole—crab-jicama salpicon, roasted poblano salpicon, salsa Mexicana, orange-tomatillo salsa, champagne margaritas.

And, who would be invited? My friends and family—nothing like making memories over great food!