[Correction: In an earlier version of this post, we incorrectly stated that Esparza referred to Rick Bayless as the "Kenny G of Mexican cooking." In fact, Esparza compared him to Michael Bolton.]
Chicago-based chef Rick Bayless, who graciously introduced Los Angeles to authentic music right after introducing us to authentic Mexican cuisine, doesn't want a certain Los Angeles blogger to know what he's doing.
The blogger in question is Bill Esparza of Street Gourmet LA, who savaged Red O in his review and called Bayless the Michael Bolton of Mexican cooking for his comments about bringing the "true flavors of Mexico" to Los Angeles.
OC Weekly reports that the latest storm in this teapot tempest is that Bayless recently blocked Esparza from following his Twitter feed (@rick_bayless) (though Esparza can still see them on the Twitter site). Esparza has a theory about that.
"I think it has everything to do with the fact that [Bayless] is in Baja right now," says Esparza, who has been visiting the region for the last decade and generally travels there one to two times per month. "He's basically going to all the places I've written on my blog. Maybe they didn't want to run into me or maybe they want to hide that they're using info from my blog. They had to have used some of the info from my blog."
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In 2009, Esparza worked with COTUCO (the visitors and convention bureau of Tijuana) to bring L.A. bloggers and chefs down to Baja for a multi-day eating tour. "I told the guy form Cotuco that if we do this and all those great blog posts come out, I guarantee you big people like Andrew Zimmern, Anthony Bourdain and Rick Bayless will come down here. Now [with Bayless], two out of three have come."
Is it an honor for a Esparza, a musician by trade and a gourmand by inclination, to be taco-blocked out by the host of "Mexico: One Plate at a Time," arguably the biggest name in Mexican cooking in the United States?
"Yeah, it's curious. My problem with him has been his insult to the Mexican community and to the Mexican chefs of Los Angeles. I think it was really careless to come in and say he was bringing Mexican cuisine to L.A. Not only is it mean, it's arrogant and inaccurate. If he took care of that, I'd have no problem with him," Esparza says. "I still think Red O is a terrible restaurant."
[Jonathan Gold gave it a mixed review: "Let's say that it resembles high-end Mexico City restaurant food more than Esparza will ever let on, but with a lot less excitement than you'll find in the best local kitchens."]