Chef Art Smith opened his CapHill restaurant, Art and Soul, less than a year ago, and already he’s fed the most powerful people in town: President Obama, Michelle Obama, Desiree Rogers, Valerie Jarrett, Nancy Pelosi, Tom Brokaw, Karl Rove former President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush. Last weekend, Attorney General Eric Holder was at his place. The man has even cooked for White House COS and professional eater Rahm Emanuel.
And that’s just in D.C. Smith was introduced to Nelson Mandela and Obama through his client Oprah Winfrey, for whom he remains “on call.”
The Obama meeting took place about four years ago at a Winfrey party. “Obama was introduced to me by Ms. Winfrey. … The first lady and the president adored my fried chicken. And he commented, ‘We could use more fried chicken,’” said Smith.
But that doesn’t mean it’s on the White House menu. “What I’ve seen, from the House speaker to the president, is an evident concern about fresh and healthy.”
Pelosi, Smith says, likes “beautiful fresh salads and nice fish — very reflective of where she’s from.”
Obama, Smith says “is not finicky. He just likes fresh. And Sam is their chef — he’s the epitome of physical fitness. Obama is perfectly happy with a wonderful salad and a piece of grilled fish; he adores anything green, like broccoli, and considering the history of broccoli in the White House, he’s the first to eat it there.”
When the first couple headed to Art and Soul, “they had a salad and they don’t eat a lot of dessert, but they shared a piece of pecan pie and didn’t finish it. They’re both very conscientious.”
Rahm Emanuel, on the other hand, loves his chocolate. Two years ago, Smith attended a dinner party and was on dessert duty. He had brought a big bar of chocolate to use in the soufflés, but “every so often [Emanuel] would go excuse himself from the table and sneak into the kitchen and grab a piece of chocolate from the bar to snack on!”
And no matter how healthy folks are, they all crumble when offered comfort food: “I’ve never cooked for anyone famous that wasn’t ashamed to ask for a grilled cheese sandwich — and most of them do.”
If you want to catch Smith on TV, you’re in luck. He recently won his round on Bravo’s Top Chef Masters and has more shows to go. Then after that, he’s headed to cook for the Dalai Lama for a month. His goal, though, is to open a not-for-profit restaurant, and he hopes more of the international community comes to see him at Art and Soul.