Chef Art Smith loves the idea of bringing people together through food. It’s partly what made him the success he is today. He is the executive chef and co-owner of Blue Door Kitchen and Garden, Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, 1500 South at the Naples Bay Resort, Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Coming late this year will be his latest restaurant, Art Bird & Whiskey Bar at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

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2017 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show
SPECIAL EDITION

 

Interview with Chef Art Smith

Chef Art Smith is performing a culinary demonstration Wednesday, October 11th at 1PM at the 2017 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show.
 
1. What made you want to become a chef?

I have been intrigued by the culinary arts all my life, having been blessed with a family of wonderful home cooks. But it was the Walt Disney World in the College Program that started me on my professional path. I was a wee mouse back then, a student at Florida State University in the School of Hospitality Management. I had wonderful mentors at Disney; after that there was no turning back. In fact, when I opened Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen I was the first College Program graduate to return to the property with their own business. This restaurant at Disney Springs truly is my Homecomin’.

2. You have quite the culinary resume, having cooked for former Florida governors Bob Graham and Jeb Bush, and being the personal chef for Oprah Winfrey. Any dining anecdotes from your time with these noted individuals that you can share?
 
Miss Winfrey loved my take on the iconic Southern Hummingbird Cake. She thought I had invented it. I said: “No, I just baked it, you made it famous.” I am just thrilled that fried chicken takes no sides. From politicians, to royalty, to superstars this simple, straightforward dish has allowed me to share intimate moments with so many amazing people. But like any good dinner party guest, I have always respected their privacy with the utmost discretion.
 
3. You’re a chef, a cookbook author, a restaurateur, as well as a husband and a father. How do you juggle it all?

With a lot of help and patience from family and friends. When I am on the road, my amazing husband, Jesus Salgueiro, manages the mayhem at home, and my corporate team keeps me headed to the right flight and location. But it’s always family first. The secret is to surround yourself with likeminded people you can trust. Jesus is the father. He knows about raising children because he himself was orphaned very young, so he understands. He helped raise his brothers and sisters. When I’m home, I’m 100 percent in the moment. Me arriving is like Santa Claus. I’m the fun one. I’m spontaneous.

4. Can you tell us a little about your charity, Common Threads, and why you founded it? 

Founded by my husband and myself in 2003, Common Threads grew out of the belief
that family and food have the power to nurture and strengthen, to connect us to culture and community, and to teach and excite us about the world.

5. What is the newest culinary trend you see emerging that you're using yourself?

It’s funny, but what’s old is new again. My cuisine is not trendy and I am not one to leap on fads. At Disney Springs, I serve straightforward Southern food and the authentic slice of Florida that can be seen from the kitchen to the bar. At my other restaurants, being authentic to yourself drives the seasonally-inspired menus. Farm to table isn’t a trend, it’s how all true chefs have conducted themselves for decades.

There is one ingredient that is getting lots of press and that is honey. This golden liquid is still as important today as it was in ancient times, and honey bees are still to our environment. Growing up in Jasper, we had a lot of wildflower and saw palmetto honey. But I have expanded my palate with clover, orange blossom and tupelo. They each have their own nuance. At Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen we make a hot honey drizzle for our fried chicken by mixing local orange blossom honey with our house-made hot sauce. You will always find local honey in my kitchen

6. If you could eat anywhere in the world, where would that be?

At home with my husband and children.

7. Which talent would you most like to have that you don’t possess?

To end hunger and suffering in the world with the wave of my hand. 

8. What’s your favorite meal to cook for friends?

Whatever is fresh, local and sustainable.

9. Who was your mentor or role model as you were becoming a chef?

I had so many great instructors at FSU’s School of Hospitality & Management, and the chefs I worked with in the Disney College program were wonderful mentors. “Jacques Pepin's Complete Techniques” is still one of my favorite books. The great Julia Child, of course. But as a Floridian, Pulitzer-prize winning writer Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings heightened my love of the diverse cuisine of my home state. She can describe an orange blossom and I can smell the aroma. I know her characters. Her portrayal of Florida life are pages out of my family’s history.

10. What can attendees expect from your session at the 2017 Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show?

Straightforward talk about my success in the hospitality industry, peppered with humor.

11. What can your fans expect from you next?

We are working on Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ Florida Kitchen Cookbook. Also, ArtBird & Whiskey Bar is opening soon at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

 
Visit Art Smith online HERE. Like him on Facebook HERE and on his Homecomin' Kitchen page HERE. Follow him on Twitter HERE.
 

More about Chef Smith: 

Chef Art Smith loves the idea of bringing people together through food. It’s partly what made him the success he is today. He is the executive chef and co-owner of Blue Door Kitchen and Garden, Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, 1500 South at the Naples Bay Resort, Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine at Disney Springs at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando. Coming late this year will be his latest restaurant, Art Bird & Whiskey Bar at Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

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. Smith now coordinates and cooks for special events all around the world.

Smith has made several television appearances including ABC’s Lady Gaga Thanksgiving Special, Top Chef, Top Chef Duels, and returned to Top Chef Masters (for the second time), where he quickly became an audience favorite. Smith was also featured in an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition where he lent a hand to a deserving family that has devoted their lives to providing meals for the less fortunate members of their community.

Smith has made regular television appearances on programs such as Iron Chef America, The Today Show, Good Morning America, Nightline, Fox News, Extra, Entertainment Tonight, BBQ Pitmasters, The Talk, The Dr. Oz Show and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He has appeared on the cover of Parade magazine, and has been featured in Cooking Light magazine. He is a regular contributor to Standup magazine, whose proceeds benefit The Ben Cohen Standup Foundation, which raises awareness of the long-term, damaging effects of bullying.

Smith is the author of four award-winning cookbooks: Back to the Table; Kitchen Life: Real Food for Real Families; Back to the Family; and Art Smith’s Healthy Comfort, with a focus on healthy cooking and healthy living, He contributed recipes and cooking advice to The Spectrum, the newest book by ground-breaking cardiologist and New York Times bestselling author Dr. Dean Ornish. In March of 2016 his latest cookbook Smart Cooking was released in conjunction of his line of the Chef Art Smith Smartbowl Cooking System.

Smith is the founder of Common Threads, a non-profit organization teaching low-income children to cook wholesome and affordable meals since 2003. He believes that through hands-on cooking and introducing children to fresh foods we can help prevent childhood obesity, reverse the trend of poor eating habits, and learn about diversity and tolerance through the celebration of our cultural differences and our commonalities.

In 2015 Smith launched a non-profit organization, Reunion, Florida Garden and Kitchen School, in Madison FL at the historic Wardlaw-Smith House near his childhood home in Jasper, FL. At Reunion students of all ages receive free classes on southern cooking traditions, horticulture, and weather forecasting via Weather Stem systems.

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. In 2008 Chef Art Smith received an Honorary MBA Degree, awarded by the Dedman School of Hospitality at Florida State University. Smith was inducted into the Chicago Culinary Museums Hall of Fame in 2010. September 30th 2010 was proclaimed by Richard M. Daley, Mayor of The City of Chicago as Chef Art Smith Day in Chicago. May 19, 2012 Chef Art Smith received an Honorary Doctorate of Culinary Arts from Johnson and Wales University, North Miami Campus.

Smith lives in Chicago and Florida with his husband Jesus Salgueiro, their four children Zumy, Zuky, Brando and Angel, and of course three dogs, seven cats, 15 fish and a couple of turtles.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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