Photo by Kipling Swehla
The executive chef and co-owner of Table Fifty-two + Art and Soul restaurants, Art Smith has received the culinary profession’s highest awards and has cooked for some of the world’s most famous celebrities. In 1997, Smith became the personal, day-to-day chef to Oprah Winfrey, a position that lasted ten years and has made regular television appearances on programs such as Iron Chef America, The Today Show, Nightline, Fox News, Extra, Dr. Oz and Oprah. In 2003 he founded Common Threads, a non-profit organization that teaches children about diversity and tolerance through the world’s great cultures. For his tireless Common Threads leadership, Smith was honored by Chicago magazine as a Chicagoan of the Year in 2007. That same year, the prestigious James Beard Foundation named him Humanitarian of the Year. All photos courtesy of Kipling Swehla. CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE
Molly Bett Kovler is a social worker turned social media strategist, editor, publicist, blogger and event executor. After graduating with a Master’s from The University of Chicago and working on the Obama ’08 campaign, MBK founded and runs Elevate Your Presence, LLC. EYP is a full service publicity, social media, editorial, management, and event execution firm defining excellence. MBK is highly connected & heavily embedded in the social web. Join EYP’s exclusive client list to Embrace. Evolve. Elevate – Elevate Your Presence. #DeliciousDIRT
“The Gov. of Florida, taught me that in order to get ahead you had to understand politics and diplomacy. Oprah taught me to honor your word and always give people your best. Life taught me to always have a parachute,” Art Smith. CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE
Yes, Oprah gave her whole studio audience cars… However, the most meaningful gift she gave Chicago and food nerds across America was opening our eyes to the one and only wonderful Chef Art Smith. The TV star and head chef behind President Obama favorite Table Fifty-two and Art & Soul, (plus future restaurants in California and Atlanta) has a heart made of gold. What you may NOT know is this fantastic chef has become a recent marathoner and runs a remarkable charity, Common Threads.
None of the above should be surprising to anyone who has met Chef Art Smith. His Southern roots and upbringing shine not just in his cooking, but also in his overall demeanor. The way Art treats everyone he meets is with pure kindness. We are sincerely proud to call him our friend. Art cooks the food we love, the food we crave, and the food we devour!! Even better, he serves it with panache. We, at Delicious DIRT, adore Chef Art Smith – as a mentor, a chef and a friend. Below, get to know Art Smith, up close and personal. We hope you’ll enjoy reading his interview as much as we loved giving it.
Did You Know?
**Shortly after being inaugurated, President and Michelle Obama celebrated Valentine’s Day at Chef Art Smith’s Chef Art Smith’s TABLE Fifty-Two. Presidential romance in the 60610 is beautiful DIRT.
**After a health scare, Chef Art Smith focused on healthy eating and lost 95 pounds. Wonderful + inspiring.
** HOTLANTA resto opening alert: Art’s opening a restaurant, Southern Art, in Atlanta this fall. We LOVE. This newbie’s focus is… you guessed it -> light Southern cooking.
** Art finished both the Chicago and Marine Corp Marathon. Amazing.
** Art is a contributing editor to O Magazine, the Oprah Magazine, as well as the author of three award-winning cookbooks: Back to the Table; Kitchen Life: Real Food for Real Families; and Back to the Family.
** Chef Art Smith is a TRUE animal lover. His family includes: three dogs, five cats, a turtle and many fish. A man after our hearts.
** Set those DVR’s: Chef Art Smith is filming a pilot for ABC…
** This summer, Smith was Russia bound to play + cook Southern food on the Silver Seas Cruise line. Even better, he tells Delicious DIRT exclusively he could not wait to bring along his mother. Russia isn’t the furthest destination to feast on his Southern-Fried Chicken, people all over Beijing, Johannesburg and Singapore rocked it too.
** Art raised over $10,000 for Common Threads on his appearance on Top Chef Masters season 1.
** Not surprisingly, in 2007, Smith won humanitarian of the year awarded by the James Beard Foundation.
DD: How do you like & dress your Chicago hot dog? Where from? Top 4.
AS: Hot Dogs, I only like American Dogs. They are promoting my marathon hot dog, chicken sausage on a whole grain bun. CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE
DD: How do you like your pizza (thin, thick & what toppings) & where from? Top 4.
AS: Pizza: Neapolitan style, thin, crispy, made at home in my pizza oven by friend legal eagle Kenneth Robling
DD: How’d you get into the food business – first jobs, preferences, origin of your genius?
AS: Started in the food business when I was 14 cooking at Kentucky Fried Chicken, then started catering in college. My catering in college led me to be Chef to the Gov. of Florida for the second term the rest is history.
DD: Where & when did you first discover you were passionate about food? What made you decide to become a chef?
AS: Why not be a Chef everyone loves a person that feeds them.
DD: What is it you love most about food / cooking / kitchen / cuisine / industry overall?
AS: I love food of the people, most importantly food with a story. What I hate is the business of food. Food is love to me, not money!
DD: What’s your favorite part about food & resto biz?
AS: Love feeding people, welcoming to the restaurant. My team of hard working people that make the restaurant work.
DD: Least fave?
AS: What I least like about the restaurant is tending to the shepherds, because if the shepherd does his job, the sheep with follow. People want a leader, and finding those people for everyone of our restaurant projects.
DD: Your culinary philosophy?
AS: Cook with love!
DD: What drives you? What motivates you?
AS: What drives me is hungry people, and Lord have mercy we have lots of them. Feeding as many people as I can.
DD: Tell us about your favorite job you’ve ever had & what you loved most?
AS: Every job I have has been my favorite, because I’ve learned from every one of them.
DD: How has your upbringing influenced your cooking?
AS: I grew up on a farm, and it was about feeding people, everything was farm to table, because that was life. We bought no bread we made it, we raised our beef, pork everything, it was not chic, it was life on the farm.
DD: You’ve run the Chicago and Marine Corp Marathon, congrats! What did you do to prepare? What foods did you eat / not eat? Any future marathon plans?
AS: Running marathons requires months and months of training, that is designed by my running Coach Az Ferguson, who has run with me in every race. Also, means a serious diet, the lower your weight the faster you run. I eat only whole foods, lean protein, and no sugar and drink lots of water. Chicago Marathon is my next one and hosting the Palm Beach Marathon this December.
DD: You’ve cooked for both Governor Jeb Bush and President Barack Obama. Give us the scoop on both- where, when, why? What’s the biggest difference you noticed when cooking for Republicans or Democrats?
AS: Fried Chicken takes no sides, makes no difference what the party is etc. We all love good food, regardless of title or economics. We are all the same at the table.
DD: In Chicago, there seems to be a new BBQ place opening every week, can you name a few of your favorites? What do you crave?
AS: BBQ in Chicago, love Chicago Q and Honky Tonk BBQ, Ribs and Bibbs
DD: Your charity, Common Threads is one we LOVE. CT teaches and instills healthy eating in children and their families via after school programs inside their schools. Can you give us the inspiration behind it all? What caused you to create it and can you tell our readers a bit more about Common Threads.
AS: Common Threads, was created by Jesus Salgueiro and myself over 6 years ago to teach children valuable lessons through the act of teaching them how to cook. Jesus had the idea of teaching. I wrote Common Threads philosophy after 9/11. For our world is a quilt, its people the fabric, all join together by common threads, food, family, music art… We started in a local church basement, it took off. I met the youngest Annenberg, gave her a lesson on eating of the famous Annenberg Foundation. Her father was impressed Charles Annenberg Weingarten, and has given me over 3 million dollars to teach children a free cooking lesson in 3 states. Over 2000 kids a year, Chicago, LA, Miami, DC and hopefully NY City in the future. www.commonthreads.org
DD: You have a restaurant in Chicago and Washington, DC are you planning on opening a restaurant anywhere else soon? Can you give us the premise of both your restos? The vibes / the goals – in your words?
AS: Southern Art, The InterContinental Hotel, Buckhead Atlanta, my most southern restaurant, enjoy regional food sourced locally and even from my own family farm.
DD: What was it like being Oprah’s personal chef?
AS: Being authentic is the secret to success, taught to me by Oprah Winfrey. I am a southern gay man that believes in feeding people and making them laugh.
DD: What 7 movies do you love the most? Could watch over & over?
AS: Wizard of Oz, Sound of Music, Gone With the Wind, Mary Poppins, Snow White, Finding Nemo, Finding Neverland, Alice In Wonderland.
DD: What are the greatest food porn scenes in TV & or film in your opinion?
AS: Babbet’s Feast, Like Water For Chocolate, Amadeus.
DD: What do you cherish most in your life & why?
AS: What I cherish in my life, are all the friendships and wonderful experiences I’ve enjoyed from people across Chicago and the world. My Chicago family, Jesus and our zoo of animals at home. Every summer my garden, sitting in it and feeling I am in my own Shangri-la, hidden from the big city.
DD: If you were going to die next week, what foods would you NEED to eat & from where?
AS: My last meal would be my mother’s home cooking, greens, fried chicken and peas, I was raised on it and I wish to be remembered for preserving it.
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