Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Rick Bayless needs to work on his Quality Control

I ate dinner last night at Frontera Fresco, an upscale Mexican fast-food chain from chef Rick Bayless. I’ve eaten there before and the service has always been slow. I always find myself standing there looking across the counter into the kitchen wondering if anyone is actually working on my order. Then just as I’m about to abandon all hope, my food suddenly appears as if summoned by some dark magic or produced through food replicator technology, because whatever it was they were doing in the kitchen didn’t seem to have anything to do with my food.

The food is generally very good though, once you get your order. If you get what you ordered. Until last night I had never had one of their Huaraches (flat bread sandwiches) because every time I ordered one, they made me a Torta. Fortunately their Tortas are really good, so I never minded much. Except that every time I ordered a Torta they were out of bread. I suppose I should have taken advantage of those moments to order a Huarache, but I did not. Although who knows what they would have brought me then. Maybe a Tamale?

Last night, however, my food took an exceptionally long time to be ready. I sat there looking over at the two employees standing with their chins in their hands staring blankly at the passing shoppers in Macy’s more convinced than ever that no one was actually making my food. Eventually, as I bored holes with my eyes into the one gentleman, he jumped and rushed over and did something before emerging with my Huarache. The edges were not so much burnt as hardened and it was so hot that not only did the plasticware have no chance of cutting through the overcooked flatbread, but they actually melted from the heat.

I would have sent it back but I didn’t have time to wait for them to make me another one, and they’d already given me a free limeade and chips & salsa. (I got there as their free-sample lady was packing up for the day, and she was eager to unload her extras.) Somehow I managed to eat most of it without burning myself or breaking a tooth, but I do think Mr. Bayless needs to work on his quality control. (In researching links for this blog, I’ve realized I did eat once at Bayless’s Frontera Grill in Chicago, and it was exceptional.)

And lest you think he has nothing to do with the place aside from licensing out his name, I sat there once eating a Torta I hadn’t ordered listening to the manager regale his employees with the tale of Mr. Bayless’s visit earlier that day. I’m guessing, if he ate there, he didn’t order a Huarache.

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In 1789, the governor of Australia granted land and some animals to James Ruse in an experiment to see how long it would take him to support himself. Within 15 months he had become self sufficient. The area is still known as Experiment Farm. This is my Experiment Farm to see how long it will take me to support myself by writing.