By Carly DeFilippo

When we think of margaritas and guacamole, the chill of December doesn’t exactly come to mind. But seasonally motivated chef Rick Bayless – a veritable authority on authentic Mexican cooking – enjoys the challenge of adapting these beloved classics year-round. Last week, he gave ICE an inside look at his winter spin on summer dishes.

The concept of celebrating both traditional recipes and modern adaptations is the driving philosophy behind Bayless’ latest cookbook, Frontera. For colder months, he warms the flavor of margaritas with the addition of ginger and tops things off with a bit of festive bubbly. When it comes to guacamole, he trades out tasteless winter tomatoes for apples, onion for roasted fennel, and cilantro for thyme. The result is a distinct deviation from these summertime favorites and might just inspire you to test out your own seasonal twists.


Chef Bayless’ expert tips:


  • Different tequilas for different margaritas. Since it takes 8-10 years for a tequila plant to mature, aging is less a question of quality than of taste. A blanco tequila works well for a classic 1:1:1 (tequila, lime juice, orange liqueur), but for something smoother, he’ll choose a reposado.
  • He often prefers “fresh” lime juice one day later. To mellow lime’s bite, squeeze one day ahead and refrigerate, tightly sealed.
  • Salt isn’t an offense to margarita “purists”. Like most food, margaritas reach their full flavor potential when a few flakes are allowed to mix into the drink.
  • Be careful in choosing your orange liqueur. There are two primary types: triple secs and orange-infused brandies. When it comes to triple sec, he tends towards Cointreau, but with the brandies, he often opts for Torres Orange, a lesser known, lighter cousin of the caramely Grand Marnier.
  • “Deflame” your onions. Bayless explained that chopping onions releases sulfurous compounds, which is why they burn our eyes. Rinse cut onions under cold water for thirty seconds, and voila – a milder, less aggressive onion.
  • Don’t buy a molcajete. Chef Bayless doesn’t appreciate table-side guacamole service, not only because few waiters are adept at preparing this dish, but also because the grinding of mortar and pestle leads to the aforementioned offensive onion flavor.
  • Try a potato masher instead. It may not be high-tech, but it helps achieve a perfectly chunky texture.
  • Keep the pit out of the bowl. The only thing that keeps guacamole from oxidizing is cold. For large events where guacamole risks to brown in the sun, Chef Bayless and his team use refrigerated terracotta flower pots to help keep guacamole cool.


Every year, ICE’s Culinary Management program hosts a one-of-a-kind series of lectures called Meet the Culinary Entrepreneurs, during which a wide range of successful culinary business leaders and luminaries share their expertise with students and guests. Yesterday, Howard Greenstone of Rosa Mexicano restaurants came to ICE to discuss his experience helping grow and develop what is now an international restaurant group specializing in authentic Mexican cuisine with the Culinary Management students. More…

This week, one of ICE’s many star alums returned to give a demonstrations for career training students. Ivy Stark graduated from ICE’s Culinary Arts program in 1995, and has often returned to ICE to help current culinary students. At yesterday’s demo she demonstrated how to make a variety of Mexican sauces from her vast repertoire.

Stark is the New York corporate executive chef of Dos Caminos, the acclaimed Mexican restaurant with four locations in the city, a position she obtained after being the executive chef of Dos Caminos Park. Her passion for international cuisines has led her to hold key posts in restaurants from New York to Los Angeles. She has worked as executive sous-chef and executive chef in the kitchens of Match Uptown, Cena and at Rosa Mexicano. More…