Chef Art Smith
Why Atlanta as a home for Southern Art? Atlanta is the New York City of the South. I grew up coming here and discovering the big city life. I’m so excited to be closer to home and to bring a taste of home to Atlanta. The city has a lot of great Southern restaurants including Miller Union and Empire State South, but who doesn’t like a proper-made biscuit with Southern flour, lard, butter and some delicious artisan ham from local farms? Yes, I was the one to say, “Get rid of the raw bar because there is no ocean out the back door.” There’s plenty of ham nearby so let’s fill it up with ham. It’s a great Southern artisan food.
How involved were you in the design of the space? We filled the ceiling with artwork by local artists. It was inspired by the Philippe Starck-designed restaurant South Beauty that I visited in Beijing, China. The recipes woven into the carpet were not my idea but I absolutely love it. It is wonderful to know my family’s recipes are woven into a big city restaurant carpet.
Where did the inspiration come from for the Bourbon Bar? You feature more than 70 bourbon offerings!
OK, you’ve got ham and biscuits, what about drinks? Well, as I talked about in my book, Back to the Table, we know iced tea is the wine of the South but bourbon is the cognac of the South. Southerners love their bourbon straight up or in mint juleps, the regional drink. Everybody in the city is arm wrestling over your biscuits and hams. We love Benton’s.
What’s your favorite? I don’t have a favorite ham. Of course, I love Benton’s for its smoky flavor but they are all my favorites. In fact, I don’t eat ham unless it’s from my Ham Bar, freshly sliced by Chef Anthony.
What do you cook for yourself at home? I am about to cook a pot of artisan butter beans that a dear, fancy Italian chef friend of mine gave me in New York. I’ve got some salt pork, and now I need to find the cornbread. Yum! Charity is an integral part of your business philosophy.
What are your current initiatives? Common Threads was created out of love for children, because every child deserves a free cooking lesson. It’s about good businesses doing good. That has been our mantra since the very beginning. In fact, I’ve given too much away and lived on faith that more will come—and, yes, it has. When people say to me, “I want this and that,” I reply, “What have you given?” My dear late father, Palmer Gene Smith, raised me to only give what I loved.
Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, 3315 Peachtree Road NE, Atlanta 30326. (404) 946-9070; southernart.com