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Chef Art Smith: How to cater to VIPs in your restaurant

3 min read

Restaurant and Foodservice

While in Atlanta a few weeks ago, I was dining a table away from the lead singer of rock band Train, Patrick Monahan, and his band. I’m not sure how the servers and chefs at the Prime Meridian Restaurant in the Omni Hotel at CNN Center handled their requests, but thought it might be interesting to reach out to someone who has a little experience in handling tall orders and catering to celebrities: chef Art Smith, who was cooking in China when we connected last week.

Chef, you’ve cooked for President Barack Obama, the king of Sweden and, of course, you were personal chef to Oprah Winfrey. Did you ever think you’d end up cooking Southern cuisine for celebrities? What advice would you give to chefs who want to cook for the stars?

Hello from Shanghai, China! I think being in China and making my Southern American food exceeds cooking for celebrities. I am here as a part of the entourage of Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago. Did I ever think I would be cooking my family’s food in China, absolutely no, but cooking for celebrities? Everyone regardless of title and economics wishes for good food and comfort. When you take care of one high-profile person well, they tell another and another. Having the honor and pleasure to cook for these people comes with trust, which is built over time.

What’s the most important information to know before preparing a meal for celebrities?

We all live busy lives and why do people insist on making their food busy? Every celebrity I’ve cooked for always chooses food that’s fresh, clean and simple. The president of the United States likes healthy grilled fish, broccoli and Mexican food. Oprah Winfrey loves Southern food that reconnects her to her grandmother’s cooking. Lady Gaga has eaten twice with me and requested my Southern fried chicken and sour cream waffles.

In your restaurants, how are celebrities treated? Do they get special seating, or a special treat from the chef?

When serving celebrities in my restaurant, what I choose to do is allow them to sit and order as they wish. Many of them do not wish for VIP seating or other fuss. They just wish to be treated normally. They are always bombarded by so many, so allow them to enjoy, celebrate and digest delicious, wholesome food like everyone else.

What are your tips for catering to celebrities? Leave a comment.

Image credit, Moshe Zusman