Chef Art Smith filled Oprah's dinner table with delightful dishes for 10 years as her personal chef. "In all those years that Art was cooking for me, people would always say, 'Oh, well, if I had my own chef, I would be thin, too,'" Oprah says. "Well, please. Art always used to cook so much food, I would say, 'It's just Stedman and it's just me. My god, Art, you need a restaurant!'"
Now, Art is fulfilling that lifelong dream with the opening of his own restaurant in Chicago—Table Fifty-Two.
Tucked away on a side street in Chicago, people are calling Table Fifty-Two a hidden jewel. The restaurant is located in a building that was originally the carriage house behind a mansion—both of which predate the infamous Chicago fire of 1871.
Table Fifty-Two's interior design, which Art calls "cottage chic," was created by Andre Walker and David Simmons of Walker Simmons Design. "When you come to Table Fifty-Two, you really do feel like you're in someone's home. And what makes it really special are the beautiful, warm colors," Art says.
To contribute to the restaurant's homey feel, Art added a piece from another kitchen where he spent a lot of time. "For 10 years, I cooked under this light fixture, which dates back from the 1920s and hung in Ms. Winfrey's kitchen," Art says. "Every time I look at that fixture, I think of [Oprah] and the light and all those wonderful meals at [her] table."
This is where the magic at Table Fifty-Two happens—the food bar and the oven. "I want to tell you something—we can make the most perfectly crispy pizza. Honey, it will make you kiss your mama, it's so delicious," Art says. "You should taste the macaroni and cheese out of this!"
Since Art cooked for Oprah for 10 years, she knows the food is good—but you don't have to take her word for it. "I've lived in Chicago for six years, and this is the best meal I've ever had in Chicago. I can honestly say that," says one woman dining at Table Fifty-Two.
"That [hummingbird] cake is to die for. That is, without a doubt, the best dessert I've ever eaten," another woman says. Get the recipe!
"You can almost taste the love that Art puts into cooking every meal," says another.
Even with no sign in front of the building, Table Fifty-Two is booked to the gills—so make your reservations in advance! "We're going to have a standing reservation so we're sure to get in, because we know this place is just going to take off," says one diner.
A popular staple at Table Fifty-Two is the goat cheese drop biscuits—and Oprah says they're unbelievable. "It's the welcome when you come in the restaurant," Art says. "Everybody likes a little love from the oven." Get the recipe for Art Smith's goat cheese drop biscuits.
Even though she was sad to see him go, Oprah says she wanted Art to open Table Fifty-Two. "I always believed that this is what you should do, and it was hard for me to give you up, but I really felt that the world needed to taste your food," she says. "You can taste the love. Because this is a man who loves loving other people through food."
Art actually created one of Table Fifty-Two's most popular dishes—the pistachio-crusted chicken—especially for Oprah's Legends Ball. "This is my very, very, very favorite thing," Oprah says. "Really, it's fantastic."
A mixture of ground pistachios, fresh herbs and parmesan cheese are encrusted on one side of the chicken breast before it is sauteéd to perfection and paired with a ginger curry sauce. Art says the simple recipe has delicious, familiar flavors that people love. Get the recipe!
If you can't make it to Chicago to go to Table Fifty-Two, you can buy the pistachio-crusted chicken and several of Art's other dishes, including the hummingbird cake, online from Allen Brothers at www.allenbrothers.com.