Oprah's chef serves up southern comfort

From writing cookbooks, to fund raising and opening a restaurant chef Art Smith has many jobs, including cooking for more than a decade for one of the most powerful women in television Oprah Winfrey.

by: Reuters: Richard Leong | 21 May 2007

Like his famous boss, the 47-year-old native of Jasper, Florida juggles a busy schedule, but he also finds time to work with his charity Common Threads, which helps underprivileged children with classes in food and the arts.

Smith recently published his third cookbook, "Back to the Family," featuring his interpretations on Southern comfort food such as potato salad and roasted herb chicken.

Soon he will open "Table", a new restaurant in Chicago where he lives with his partner artist Jesus Salgueiro. "The idea is to deliver elegant homemade food in a restaurant," he said.

Q: What is your day like as a personal chef?
A: I surround myself with a lot of talented people. Now I do a lot of planning. I do a lot of special events. I have a very unique job and people look to me to create a home. You could hire a caterer and you get catered food. When you hire me, you feel you're home.

Q: How have Americans' eating habits changed since you've been a personal chef?
A: I think people are eating lighter. More salads. More soups. Lots of fish. They are eating more complex carbohydrates. Lots of fruits and vegetables. I would like to hope that extremism in diets has waned. People are being more sensible.

Q: If Americans are eating healthier, why is there an obesity problem in this country?
A: The root of the problem is not what they eat but how they feel inside. We binge because we are missing something in our lives. We are not doing a good job of teaching people. People tend to go with what's easy, and you know as well as I do that easy is not necessarily good, so we have to constantly remind people, and we need to teach better.

Q: How has Oprah Winfrey been an influence?
A: Oprah inspired me and taught me to be proud of who I am and not to be ashamed to serve biscuits because, you know what, it's a beautiful thing. She said to me, 'Art, people want that. People want that comfort at home.'

Q: What do you cook for yourself?
A: I adore corn soup. It reminds me of my grandparents when they picked it. No cream. I love grilled chicken. I love spinach. I like vanilla ice-cream with homemade bittersweet chocolate sauce.

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