Art Smith is coming home. The celebrity chef who has served his famous fried chicken to Oprah Winfrey and four U.S. presidents is returning to his birthplace in Jasper, Florida. And he’s bringing along his entourage — a husband and five children — as he works to reinvigorate this city of just 1,600 people.
Smith and his husband, Jesus Salguerio — who married five years ago in an over-the-top D.C. wedding that included a performance by Moby — have long been fixtures on the celebrity scene. Smith spent nearly a decade as Winfrey’s personal chef (and she introduced him to his new pal Lady Gaga), has served a vegetarian version of his fried chicken to the Dali Lama, and recently catered an after-party for Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello’s wedding at The Breakers.
Much of his focus in recent years has been on creating healthier versions of indulgent foods. He dropped 125 pounds four years ago and even ran two marathons, but he saw the weight creeping back. Recently, he began a new exercise regimen and lost 45 pounds. But he still loves his classic fried Southern food.
“You can’t tell people who have been making this food for centuries to stop making it. … I’m not going to do it. I think you can have stupendous fried chicken that comes from a humane place,” served with fresh, raw vegetables and lower calorie sides.
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The Florida Garden and Kitchen School is slated to begin courses this fall online and in person. His bakery will open later this year and will supply desserts for his other big project, a restaurant opening at Disney Springs this summer. The bakery and gardens also will supply food to three other restaurants Smith is planning to open in Florida.