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Bay Wine & Food Festival Headliner Chef Rick Bayless Lands In San Diego

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The acclaimed chef talks fresh seafood and the SD-Baja Boom.

Keri Bridgwater

Internationally renowned, award-winning chef Rick Bayless has landed in San Diego! Co-headlining tonights four-course San Diego Bay Wine & Food Festival opening dinner at Bracero: Cocina de Raíz, Bayless kindly took a few moments out of his whirlwind San Diego tour -- which kicked off at Catalina Offshore with Tommy Gomes this morning -- to give us a preview on tonight’s menu, thoughts on the SD-Baja boom, plus his picks on places to eat and drink in Baja.

TONIGHT AT BRACERO Bayless will create ceviche using a Baja hiramas (a Baja-farmed yellowtail) topped with fresh uni from Catalina Offshore, served with a "bright green" herb-puree for tonight’s opening feast. He’ll also be making the popular Yucatán dish cochinita pibil (slow-cooked suckling pig cooked overnight in a wood-burning oven), served in mini handmade tortillas, made using heirloom corn organically grown in Mexico.

SD EATS & DRINKSA huge fan of Javier Plascencia and his family's work, Bayless has enjoyed dining at Bracero on his most recent visits to San Diego. He added that, while he doesn't always get time to eat out in San Diego, during his last visit got the opportunity to eat at Puesto, which he described as: "fresh and contemporary" –– and very much enjoyed what they are doing there.

TIJUANAAmazed at the booming culinary cross-over happening here in San Diego and south of the border, Bayless recently enjoyed an extensive tour of TJ hotspots including wine tasting at Gilberto Salinas' G. Salinas Enoteca, craft beers at CBC Tasting Room, plus bites at the new and very hop Verde y Crema (director and own Jair Tellz is an old friend).

BAJA STOPS Bayless’ Baja tour starts first thing tomorrow morning with fish tacos at the Ensenada Fish Market, before heading south to visit Think Blu Seafood in the fishing village of Puerto Popotla. There, he and his team will enjoy a tour of the hatchery and Uni production facilities before heading back to Ensenada. Valle de Guadeloupe is also on the agenda, with plans to visit wineries including Adobe Guadalupe and Hacienda la Lomita.

RED O Last December Eater reported that his Red O Restaurants concept would be expanding to La Jolla's UTC area, possibly sometime in 2016. While Bayless has worked on menu direction and design as culinary director, we're told the project is now currently in the construction phase.

While the celebrity reception and 4-course dinner is sold out tonight, tickets to many other events and dinners throughout the week are still available to purchase online.