Rick Bayless is the latest big name in Chicago’s restaurant industry to launch a collaborative dish with Farmer’s Fridge, the retailer best known for its vending machines stocked with fresh salads.
On Wednesday, April 7, Bayless — the face of acclaimed Mexican restaurants including Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in River North — will introduce a limited edition item that’s available for delivery, not in a vending machine. Farmer’s Fridge is the Chicago-based food vendor that’s busied itself during the pandemic creating new revenue streams as its many of its previous patrons — commuters, office workers, and travelers — were grounded by the pandemic. Farmer’s Fridge in January launched a surprising pilot program, offering a selection of its salads and bowls at outposts of doughnut giant Dunkin’ in Avondale, Irving Park, and the Illinois Medical District.
The collaboration with Bayless was actually created by chef Rishi Manoj Kumar who oversees the kitchen at Bar Sótano, the restaurant underneath Frontera. It’s a limited-edition bowl of red chile-braised pork with black beans, caramelized plantains, and cilantro rice. It will be available for delivery in 17 states via the Farmer’s Fridge website, with some proceeds going toward $150,000 in grants that Bayless plans to give away next month through his Frontera Farmer Foundation to support farmers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a rep.
Bayless is no stranger to packaged meals, as he features a line of frozen skillets, bowl, and pre-prepared sauces through his retail line, Frontera Foods. Other well-known Chicago chefs have previously joined forces with Farmer’s Fridge for its Chef Collaboration program, founded last May. Participants have included Top Chef champion Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat, Cabra), Brian Jupiter (Frontier), and Bill Kim (Urbanbelly).
And in other news...
— Let the rumor mill wind down: BLVD Steakhouse co-owner Kara Callero says Sancerre Hospitality has no plans at this time to close or demolish their ritzy steakhouse in West Loop. Social media chatter earlier this week centered around a zoning change with eagle-eyed West Loopers taking that to mean the end of the line for the four-year-old restaurant. Callero tells Eater Chicago the zoning change is to build an office building in the future with an interim plan to use the lot for a patio. Callero says she’ll update her patio plans when more info is available.
— One of the area’s signature food festivals, the Exchange Club’s of Naperville’s Ribfest, will take place this summer at a new location. The event is moving from Naperville to Romeoville, according to the Tribune. The event will take place from July 1 through July 4 and there’s no word on the entertainment. The acts which play the fest are known to stir conversation.
— Third-party delivery brand DoorDash has selected 26 Chicago restaurants to receive grants through its $2 million Main Street Strong Accelerator Program. The initiative is designed to direct money to small businesses owned by Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), women, and immigrants impacted by the pandemic across five cities. The announcement comes days after an NBC News story about the company’s new fees.
The following restaurants received $20,000 grants:
- La Cocinita Restaurant
- Mae’s Que House
- Bombay Wraps
- Crazy Bird Chicken
- Evelyn’s Food Love
- Chocolat Uzma
- Badou Senegalese Cuisine
- Ms. B’s Kitchen & Catering
- Back of the Yards Coffeehouse
- Savory Crust
- Sugar Bliss
- Windy City Ribs & Whiskey
- Saigon Sisters
- Gayle V’s Best Ever Grilled Cheese
- Cleo’s Southern Cuisine
- CheSa’s Gluten Free Gourmet
- Josephine’s Restaurant
- La Luna
- Red Pepper’s Lounge
- Russian Tea Time
- J’s Breakfast Club