Why Award-Winning Chef Rick Bayless Was Thrilled To Work With A Fast Food Burger Chain - Exclusive

Chef Rick Bayless is not a fast food kind of guy, frankly speaking. In fact, when asked if he had a favorite spot during a recent Mashed interview, Bayless thought for a moment and then answered with an unequivocal "no," and further said, "I'm not much for that. There's not one thing that I go to really." Or, at least there wasn't until the chef and his team developed a fast food menu item themselves.

It's the new (and very limited) Chorizo Cheeseburger now available at Smashburger. So, why did non-fast food fan Bayless agree to the idea? There were two reasons, first and foremost being the charitable opportunities that the partnership presented. 

"It was actually Smashburger that reached out to me through a mutual friend," Bayless explained, adding that Carl Bachmann, president of the restaurant company, had an idea to possibly do a collaboration to raise funds for a charity. "He reached out to me and said, 'Could we talk about this? Would you be interested in it?' And we have a very, very active philanthropic side of our businesses, and a couple of foundations ... and we also really raise a lot of money for other people's foundations. So I said, 'Oh yeah, if you're talking real money to go to some of the charities that we support, that would be a really fascinating thing for me.'"

Rick Bayless was also amazed by the quality of Smashburger ingredients

So, the first box was checked for Rick Bayless after he learned the collaboration would raise funds for charity. But, the other big factor that persuaded him to get involved was the quality.

"Then obviously, I had to figure out whether or not we could do something that would represent the quality that we work with," Bayless said during a recent Mashed interview. "And so I said to [Smashburger], 'The whole idea sounds really good to me, but we got to figure out now if we can produce a burger that I can put my name on.'" Bayless noted the burger team met with him and his group in Chicago to work on a few things to get it just right. "And to tell you the truth — and some of my staff will say the same thing — we were so impressed with the quality of the ingredients they brought us to work with that we thought, this is sort of a slam dunk, because it's going to help one of our charities a lot, and it's also just an absolutely delicious burger."

It was a welcome relief to Bayless who noted he had been put off before by other quick-service spots that were all about the money and getting the cheapest product to market. But, "That was not my experience with Smashburger," he revealed. "It was really good quality stuff. And they would always bring more product than we needed when we were doing our testing, which my staff was very appreciative of, because they loved those burgers. We would make them up for the whole staff [to eat], and they were saying, 'When are they going to come back and do more burgers with us?' So it was a fun and actually very easy collaboration, and we ended up with a great product."

Learn all about Smashburger's new Chorizo Cheeseburger — and how to get your hands on one — here.