Talkative, friendly and outspoken, a seemingly always-smiling Art Smith is chef/owner of one of Washington, D.C.’s most prestigious restaurants. He is one of the first chefs on Capitol Hill to “put fried chicken in fine dining” at southern-style Art and Soul Restaurant in the Affinia-owned Liaison Hotel.
As former personal chef for Oprah Winfrey, Smith’s resume is impressive–having cooked for some big names as diverse as former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the Dalai Lama and President Barack Obama–and is a partner with Lady Gaga’s father for southern-Italian restaurant (yes, that’s southern as in America’s south and Italian as in Italy) Joanne Trattoria in New York City’s upper west side. Smith proudly owns his public personality and is anything but quiet about his LGBT stance. He and husband Jesus Salguerio (a professional artist and vice president of Smith’s charity Common Threads) married at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. in 2010.
“It was one of the most public, big, fat, gay weddings in America,” Smith said proudly. “Jesus and I feel like we need to stand up for the gay marriage bill and help facilitate it in other states.”
Smith’s own buttermilk fried chicken and waffles with Pecorino cheese, crispy Salumi, Burton's Farm Maple Syrup (a variation which is available for brunch at D.C.’s Art and Soul) went up against menu items like fried yard bird and chicken liver donuts (Chef Marcus Samuelsson), a chocolate potato chip cookietopped “Liquid Klondike” (Chef Thiago Silva), a mini “chickwich slider,” and chicken & waffles with coarse ground corn grits with pimento cheese from Hill Country Chicken’s Elizabeth Karmel. The evening presented a mix of healthy, traditional and eclectic fried chicken dishes. For three hours straight, it was every bit indulgent.
HOW ARE THINGS IN D.C.? ANY PLANS?
I’m doing a facelift of Art and Soul in the next year. We’ve proven here on the Hill – where the whole world comes – that they [the world] love fried chicken. I also have my after-school cooking program, Common Threads (www.commonthreads. org) here in D.C. It is America’s foremost after-school cooking program where we serve over 7,000 kids. Common Threads won a James Beard award, and it’s been featured on every major television show. It teaches children how to cook, to live healthy and to work together regardless of gender or culture. When they come in the kitchen, they have one thing they want to do – and that’s cook together. Right now it’s in four states and headquartered in Chicago.
YOU CAME OUT WITH A BOLD RESPONSE TO CHICK-FIL-A FOUNDER DAN CATHY EARLIER THIS YEAR IN YOUR CHICAGO SUN-TIMES OP-ED. WHAT ARE SOME THINGS WE CAN ANTICIPATE FROM YOU IN THE FAST-CASUAL FOOD INDUSTRY?
Rebekah Pizana is a professional food writer, pastry chef and licensed business owner. Her pastry work through Gourmet Amore has been published in Brides Maryland and Brides Washington, D.C., and by the online wedding magazine, StyleMePretty.com.