He runs the popular Chicago restaurant Table Fifty-Two, volunteers his time and talents for various charities and has even more ambitious plans ahead. Art Smith, Oprah's former personal chef, talks with Nate about his work and why he says food can bring people and their differences together.
Art says opening the doors at Table Fifty-Two was like opening up his home to friends for a nightly party. Despite his many obligations, Art says he is at the restaurant 15 to 18 days a month and has no plans of expanding the 60-seat restaurant into something bigger. "If I can't say 'Hello' to the people and ask them how their meal is, I don't really want to do it," he says. "What I find with these larger restaurants [is that] you can't interact with the people."
Soon, however, Art will be splitting time between his Chicago restaurant and a new soul food restaurant in Washington, D.C., called Art and Soul—set to open in July 2008. While opening a new restaurant is thrilling, Art says he's equally excited about opening a branch of his children's charity, Common Threads, in the nation's capital. "One of the greatest things about success is that you are really able to do what you want to do and you don't have to argue with people to get your point across," he says.
Common Threads is flourishing in Chicago—bringing together world-class chefs and schoolchildren with the goal of teaching the children about food, cooking and diversity, Art says. "Through food, we can learn about each other," he says. "Just simply teaching a child a dish from a different country inspires that child to learn more about the country and the people."
As his vision for his restaurants and charity come together, Art says his focus is to continue to look for more opportunities to make a difference in people's lives. "I care more about other people now and less about pleasing myself," he says.