With the damaging allegations of rampant sexual misconduct that have arisen recently within the restaurant industry, many of us have dedicated time to thinking about ways we might evolve professional kitchen culture for the benefit of our staff and our industry as a whole. To that end, I would like to share three actions I have found useful in creating a positive kitchen culture:

1. Take steps toward an “open kitchen.” From day one, I’ve believed that an open kitchen — one that all our guests can see — is a regulating force. When guests can watch our cooks craft their meals, we find that both professionalism and pride increase. Foul language is curtailed, as is a lot of clowning around. Even when a professional kitchen is behind closed doors, keeping it up as though it were on public display, as well as inviting guests back to visit it, goes a long way creating a positive professional kitchen culture. …

Having just returned from a research trip to northern Baja after having been away for a couple of years, I am amazed at what has happened. Tijuana continues to evolve as a major place for great dining (if your image of Tijuana is still that ’80s hideousness that pandered to ugly American tourists, you won’t recognize anything). You have to go to the super-upscale Misión 19 and to La Querencia, Verde y Crema, Cebichería Erizo. And that just scratches the surface; my time was short and I’m sure that list is woefully incomplete. Taco culture in Tijuana continues strong, but it’s been matched by a great craft beer movement, too. Though I have to say I dream of the shrimp tacos from El Masateño and the carne asada torta at Tortas Wash Mobile, if I only had one meal, I’d go to the collection of outdoor taquerías called Las Ahumaderas where you can find some pretty fine traditional flavor. …


Rick Bayless

Chef: Frontera Grill/Topolo/Xoco, 8 Cookbooks, Emmy nom for Mexico-One Plate at a Time, Top Chef Masters winner, Recipient of Mexico's Order of Aztec Eagle

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