Art Smith, the man behind Southern Art and Bourbon Bar, formerly Oprah’s personal chef, recently competed in Top Chef Masters: Season Four, which premiers tomorrow at 10 p.m. on Bravo. For Top Chef Masters, Smith, along with 11 other award-winning chefs, spent nearly two months in Las Vegas, staying at The Cosmopolitan, noshing on what Smith calls the “best-kept secret in Vegas,” and vying for the $100,000 prize to be awarded to their charity of their choice. For Smith, that charity is Common Threads, a nonprofit he founded to teach children from low-income families how to create wholesome yet affordable meals through hands-on cooking classes. Here’s what Smith had to say about his experience:
On what’s different ?
“I’m 120 pounds lighter than last time I did the show. Plus, it’s a bigger group.”
On his concerns about being back on the show ?
“Everyone loves a big fat chef. I was concerned that if I lost the fat I’d lose the funny. I just wanted to be the best I could and be as entertaining as I could.”
On being on camera ?
"The objective [of Top Chef Masters] is winning, but it’s also to be entertaining. Every second you’re on camera, you should make sure you’re remembered. You don’t want to be boring. It’s Bravo; you can let it all hang out. I call Top Chef my coming out party. Oprah made people aware of me, but from Top Chef Masters, people got to know me. After that people had no doubts that Art Smith is a gay man."
On his emotions ?
"I cry on the show. People love it when I cry."
On business ?
"Every person touched by the show has the opportunity to spin it into business. There’s nothing more seductive than TV. You become a part of people’s lives."
On Vegas ?
“I’m not a Vegas person and we were there for two months ...”
On the food ?
“The best-kept secret in Vegas is the pizza in The Cosmopolitan. There’s a big hallway with no signs and a long line of people around 3 or 4 in the morning. You’d think it was a line for the bathroom, but it’s for delicious New York style pizza. I tell you, I saw many a Top Chef Master in that line eating pizza.”
On why pizza is the best-kept secret in the city ?
“We’re so used to eating fancy food that it’s nice to eat something not fancy.”
Art Smith. Photo by Sara Hanna.