Celebrity Top Chef Opens New Green Restaurant

September 14, 2009
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CHICAGO - Renowned top celebrity chef Rick Bayless opened XOCO (show-ko), a new green 2,800 sf fast-serve restaurant in Chicago’s upscale River North neighborhood. Designed by Farr Associates to achieve a LEED Gold certification under the USGBC Commercial Interiors rating system, the pioneering restaurant achieves Bayless’s legendary customer experience with significantly less energy use and take-out waste.

“Rick’s decision to certify XOCO as a green building makes good sense given his well known passion for using local and organic food,” said Doug Farr, President of Farr Associates.

The narrow restaurant space features a mix of conventional and communal seating and an exposed kitchen designed to invoke the open, interactive nature of purchasing food from a street vendor. Green features include greater envelope insulation featuring increased R-value storefronts, Energy Star roofing and appliances, fluorescent and LED lighting, FSC certified wood products and low-VOC materials made of recycled content that are regionally available.

Designed for daylighting, customers found the space full of natural light. Where additional light is needed, occupancy sensors and dimming controls reduce energy demand. In addition, water use is reduced an exceptional 40% over baseline standards, through low-flow plumbing fixtures.

“The design of XOCO is a continuation of the many green practices that Rick has always done—healthy and organic,” notes Farr.

Located next to his award winning restaurants Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, XOCO features authentic Mexican “street food.” Meals made using all electric appliances and induction pilotless cooktops for reduced space cooling. Variable volume vent hoods reduce energy usage by almost half during times when hoods function in low/no action periods.

Chef Rick Bayless commented, “Designing and certifying the restaurant to green building standards honors our commitment to sustainability. I was impressed with the efficient lighting and kitchen equipment that is now available and delighted by the local and green finishes that Farr proposed.”

Gone are the days of non-recyclable plastic take-out containers. All take-out customers are finding their food wrapped in compostable materials, or materials made from natural products such as corn, cellulose or soy that do not emit toxins when they breakdown. Eat-in diners use silverware and dishware, a change for those used to eating at take-out establishments with plastic “sporks.” Food waste is composted and cooking grease is recycled to power a local waste recycler/composter vehicle fleet while the very food diners eat includes peppers and tomatoes grown on the 1,000 SF rooftop garden.

About Farr Associates
Founded in 1990, Farr Associates is an award-winning architecture and planning firm identified by the New York Times as “the most prominent of the city’s growing cadre of ecologically sensitive architects.” Farr Associates’ mission is to design sustainable human environments, while applying the principles of LEED at the scale of the neighborhood and in designing green buildings exclusively for urban contexts. Farr Associates’ multiple LEED Platinum designs, including the first Net Zero Energy residence in Chicago, stand as models of urban architectural sustainability. For more information, visit

About Rick Bayless
Award-winning chef-restaurateur, cookbook author, and television personality Rick Bayless has done more than any other culinary star to introduce Americans to authentic Mexican cuisine and to change the image of Mexican food in America. In 1987, Rick having moved to Chicago, opened the hugely successful Frontera Grill, which specializes in contemporary regional Mexican cooking. On the heels of Frontera Grill's success, Rick opened the elegant Topolobampo in 1989. Adjacent to Frontera Grill, Tobolobampo is one of America's only fine-dining Mexican restaurants. Frontera Grill and Topolobampo have received glowing distinctions from such publications as Gourmet, Food & Wine, Bon Appétit, Atlantic Monthly, Condé Nast Traveler, Zagat's, The Wine Spectator, USA Today, Chicago Magazine and The Chicago Tribune. Rick is a restaurant consultant, teaches authentic Mexican cooking throughout the United States (he is a visiting staff member at the Culinary Institute of America), and leads cooking and cultural tours to Mexico. For more information, visit

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