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Video by Ilea Shutler. Produced by David Fritze.

“Conversations” is a series of video interviews with Oklahomans about subjects that relate to some of the state’s important issues. The 2016-2017 series is sponsored by the Chickasaw Nation and is made possible by a grant from the Institute for Nonprofit News.

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The chef and entrepreneur in Rick Bayless were being prepared in south Oklahoma City before he was even born.

In the mid-1940s, his parents, John and Levita Bayless, opened the Hickory House barbecue restaurant at S.W. 25th and Western Avenue, in the Capitol Hill area. And as a boy, Bayless quickly became enchanted with the flavors, ingredients, cooking skills and dining experiences related to both simple and sophisticated fare. Before he could drive, he once ordered a delivery of pork chops from Crescent Market, a premium grocery in Nichols Hills that closed in 2011.

While in graduate school at the University of Michigan, Bayless ran a catering business. And ultimately, he decided to make cooking and restaurants his career, specializing in contemporary Mexican cuisine.

Bayless is the author of many cookbooks, hosts the cooking and travel show, “Mexico – One Plate at a Time” on PBS, and has opened wildly popular restaurants in Chicago, where he lives. Those include Topolobampo, Frontera Grill and, last year, Leña Brava and the next-door Cruz Blanca Cervecería brewery and taqueria. He was captured many top chef awards.

Bayless returns often to Oklahoma City to see family, in particular his mother. He said he notices that too many Oklahomans, like others across the country, are obese and over-consuming processed food. He dislikes lecturing about it, preferring instead to emphasize that well-made, healthful food is just more satisfying.

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