Most chefs, especially when they attain celebrity status , leave their hometowns and roots for good. Not so for Art Smth, a chef and baker from northern Florida.He moved back to his home town , after a glittering career. Why? His heart is there and so are his plans for the next step in his career.
Kim Severson profiled and interviewed this amazing chef/baker in today's New York Times Food section. Chef Smith came from Jasper,a small, sleepy southern town located not far from the Georgia border. He has cooked for the Obamas as well as for Oprah Winfrey, two Florida governors and even the British royal family.His children have received formal baptismal blessings from the Pope . His friends include Lady Gaga and Jeb Bush. One would think he'd want to open up restaurants and bakeries in the glittery celebrity chef worlds of New York,LA or even Miami however that's not Chef Smith's dream. It is one where his hometown of Jasper is revived . There was only a phosphate factory and a nursery home along with being the birthplace of the writer Lillian Smith, known for writing the controversial book, Strange Fruit. Jasper is located in Hamilton county, one of Florida's poorest counties.It' s a forgotten or ignored town - as tourists drive by it to see Disney World three hours south of it.That's all about to change. The sleepy southern town is about to get enthusiastically shaken awake.
Chef Smith has big plans for Jasper which will certainly put it on any foodie's map.It involves Disney , an enterprise that has boosted the state's tourists revenues for decades.The resort is letting him open his two hundred seat restaurant Homecoming : Florida Kitchen And Southern Shine where it specializes in farm to fork cuisine.It's design was inspired by turn of the century Floridian architecture. The menu is pure Southern too as well as trendy , deviled eggs, chicken and dumplings and kale salad with walnuts and Georgia cheese.Of course there will be Southern cakes such as the classic hummingbird cake, twelve layer ones, Key lime pound cakes and moonshine cakes. The last is a tribute to his grandfather ,a moonshiner, however the cake is a sweet moist one made with fruit, The cakes will be baked in what is now a closed complex that once housed jai alai and poker room. Once was a mecca for local gamblers will now become the future of a commercial bakery that will be selling a taste of the South to all of America.Not only will it sell cakes at an on site bakery but also a country store that sells organic produce.Lucikly he has Florida heiress Margie Geddes along with Jasper native Susan Levin Turner to help.
Some celebrity chefs conveniently forget where they came from, Not Chef Smith . He is going back to Jasper to put it on the culinary map.