Andy's Restaurant Scorecard: Celebrity Chef Art Smith - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Andy's Restaurant Scorecard: Celebrity Chef Art Smith

(WMC TV) - CHEF OF THE WEEK:  Chef Art Smith, The Art Smith Company, author of Art Smith's Healthy Comfort,

Art Smith is the buddy you drink beer with while skillet-frying chicken in your kitchen.

Charming, effervescent, compassionate -- it's no wonder he was the personal chef to two governors and Oprah Winfrey.

Now the owner and executive chef of five restaurants encourages people they can eat healthy and still enjoy great flavor, even with diet challenges.

"People do have diet challenges, and type 2 diabetes is a challenge," Smith said.

His doctor diagnosed him with type 2 diabetes in 2008. After years of tending to his clients' nutrition, he started taking care of his own -- dropping 120 pounds and gaining a new appreciation for chefs and restaurants who offer healthier options.

"Responsibility is something that is expected in all businesses, and particularly in the food business," he said. "People want to know what they're eating and what is in it."

What's in Smith's dishes: whole foods. Fruits and veggies from farmers markets. The less bread, the better. Roasted vegetables instead of sauteed. No processed foods and no white sugar, flour or rice.

He achieves great flavor through unconventional combinations of whole foods and herbs/spices. Case in point: his watermelon salad with feta cheese instead of salt.

"That sweetness of that watermelon gets that light, creamy saltiness of the feta," Smith explained as our mouths watered. "Then you got a little bit of cilantro, and to give it a little love, a little serrano chiles that will set you on fire!"

Or his "un-fried" chicken, baked with a "skin" of crunchy whole wheat panko. That's bread crumbs without the crusts.

"So regardless of your challenge, I believe this is how people should eat," he said. "I'm a believer, too, that the healthier the chef, the healthier the customer and also patronizing restaurants you know that care."

Two great local examples:  Fuel Cafe in Midtown and Ciao Bella in East Memphis. Both offer delicious vegetarian and vegan options to the diet-challenged.

"I was diagnosed with diabetes," Ciao Bella Executive Chef Jonathan Steenerson revealed to us when he was the Scorecard's Chef of the Week. "Since then, I've kind of been on a spiritual journey to figure out how to do good food healthy and fresh."

"Don't deprive yourself (of meats and fatty favorites) and realize, too, that life is short, but everything in moderation," Smith said. "You need to devote a certain percentage of your daily diet to a plant-based diet, where you are eating lots of fruits and vegetables."

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