Industry News | October 21, 2013

Rick Bayless Sets Up Shop at University of Pennsylvania

Chicago-based chef Rick Bayless announced he will open a Tortas Frontera location at the University of Pennsylvania as the chain's first establishment on a college campus. The quick-service Mexican restaurant is now under construction and projected to open in early January, 2014.

Since opening Frontera Grill in Chicago 25 years ago, Bayless has expanded his restaurant offerings to include quick-service Tortas Frontera locations in airports and corporate centers. Spreading to a college campus was the next logical step, and U. Penn. was a perfect fit, says Stacy Dixon, Frontera's director of development and marketing. "The University of Pennsylvania is a prestigious university with a sophisticated, vibrant, diverse student population who appreciate food made with high-quality ingredients from local farms and dairies,” she says. “The university environment is a great way for us to expand our restaurant concepts and share our spirited hand-crafted Mexican fare."

Bayless, who has cooked for President Barack Obama at a state dinner, was recently named by the U.S. State Department as one of more than 20 chefs as culinary ambassadors around the world. Instead of relying on larger food distributors, Bayless aims to use local food and produce from farmers near his restaurants.

The Tortas Frontera location at U. Penn. will operate in partnership with Bon Appétit Management Company, the university's food service provider since 2009. Bon Appétit also aims to prioritize local ingredients. Since 1999, when it launched its Farm to Fork program, Bon Appétit has required all its chefs to source at least 20 percent of their ingredients from small, owner-operated farms, ranches, and artisan businesses within 150 miles of their kitchens.

"We at Bon Appétit are thrilled to be working with Rick Bayless and Tortas Frontera," says Stephen Scardina, Bon Appétit's resident district manager at U. Penn. "It's fresh, it's local, it's culinary-driven, and now it's a part of Penn's dynamic campus dining scene. It's a perfect match."

Frontera's fare will inhabit the newly renovated space on the ground floor of The Arts, Research and Cultural House (ARCH), a building that has recently undergone a $20 million renovation. The ARCH stands as a crossroads of the student experience and is home to the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, three cultural resource centers, plus high-tech spaces for groups to gather, practice, and perform.

The ARCH has long history of incorporating food and fellowship, between the Palladium restaurant and Gold Standard cafeteria.

"The restored ARCH will stand as an exciting crossroads of the Penn student experience," says Marie Witt, vice president of business services at the university. "We were committed to creating a café that reflected the spirit and values of this vibrant new space while at the same time introducing a new and innovative concept to campus dining. By bringing Tortas Frontera to the ARCH Café, we believe we will accomplish those goals."

Beyond the sustainable practices in the kitchen, Tortas Frontera will also add a greater variety of breakfast, lunch, and dinner offerings to the existing campus dining scene. The menu will include Mexican delicacies such as tortas, fresh guacamole, molletes (open-faced quick sandwiches), soups and cazuelas (hearty Mexican casseroles), salads, special seasonal dishes, and gluten-free options. A wide variety of grab-and-go options will also be available.