What the Chef Rick Bayless Can’t Travel Without


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Among the chef Rick Bayless’s must-haves are ribbon for wrapping gifts, a collapsible vase and combination flatware.

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Michelle Litvin for The New York Times

When Rick Bayless, the chef, cookbook author and television star, hits the road, it’s most often to Mexico, the country whose cuisine has been the inspiration for his recipes and clutch of Chicago restaurants. His latest establishment, Frontera Cocina, opened in Disney Springs in Orlando, Fla., in June.

“I have an apartment in Mexico City, but it’s like another home, not a vacation so much,” Mr. Bayless said. “The other place I go yearly is to Oaxaca, where I’ve spent the last 25 Christmases. For me it really embodies the spirit of Christmas: sharing, people and festivities. There’s this old convent called Quinta Real that was built in the 1600s and it’s been converted into a hotel. It’s not luxurious in the sumptuous sense, it’s luxurious because it has so much history.”

Another place he visits again and again is Thailand. “I love the same things about Thailand that I love about Mexico. It’s the generosity of spirit that the people have, and there’s almost nowhere you go where people don’t greet you warmly,” he said. “Plus, I love the food, obviously. The curries you find in Thailand and the moles in Mexico both take time to make and lots of dedication on the part of the cook to get them right.

“I also like to go to Japan every couple of years,” he said. “It’s mind-boggling, the sense of respect they have for food and cooking food. I sometimes think we’re very precise in our restaurant kitchens, and then I go to Japan and realize what precision is all about.”

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Rick Bayless.

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Aynsley Floyd for The New York Times

Unlike most, Mr. Bayless doesn’t use travel to get away from his work. “If you told me I had to go sit on the beach, I would go stark raving mad,” he said. “I’d rather make friends with someone with a restaurant and then go hang out in the kitchen for awhile, or go to a market and see how people buy things.”

Here’s what he packs on every trip.

Coffee supplies

“When I’m traveling I need to feel grounded and the stuff I bring with me helps with that. I always have a coffee maker and ground coffee so I can start my day with the flavor I associate with home — I don’t like having to get dressed in the morning and go to a Starbucks or something. I’ve had this little hotpot for about 18 years. I bring the Frontera blend from Intelligentsia, a medium roast that we serve in our restaurants.”

Gaiam foldable yoga mat

“I do a daily practice of yoga and I always bring a travel yoga mat. It’s super thin and it also works as a packing material for stuff that I buy along the way, which will often be ceramic dishes or a bottle of some kind of local booze or wine.”

Vase

“I love flowers. Another odd grounding thing for me is to travel with a collapsible flower vase. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve been walking down the street and seen beautiful flowers, and this way we can stop and buy them and have them in our room. It’s a simple plastic thing that collapses and doesn’t take up any space at all.”

Ribbon for gift-wrapping

“Because you never know when you’re going to be invited someplace, and you want to take something nice. Even if you just pick up something along the way, you can tie a bow around it, it’s a thoughtful gesture. Because I’m in the world of hospitality, people often invite me to their restaurant or their home, and I love showing up with something that is meaningful. And tying a bow around it.”

Travel flatware

“I love going to markets, and I bought these in Copenhagen in the Design Museum. They’re like a fork, knife and spoon in one. I bring four because it’s very common that I’ll find stuff in a market that I want to eat, so we can have a picnic in our hotel room, or in a car or on a bus. They’re smaller and much more lightweight than anything similar I’ve ever seen. I’ve been traveling fully prepared for a picnic since I was, like, 20.”

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