Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2023-09-06



Chef Art Smith talks upcoming dinner and activism
by Andrew Davis

This article shared 3132 times since Fri May 26, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

More than 6 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's disease, including more than 230,000 Illinoisans. Additionally, more than 11 million family members and friends serve as dementia caregivers, with more than 383,000 caregivers in Illinois.

Until recently, one of those caregivers was Chef Art Smith. The culinary icon—who has served people such as Oprah Winfrey, Lady Gaga and the Obamas—moved to Florida from Chicago a few years ago to assist his mother, who was battling the disease. Unfortunately, it was a battle she ultimately lost but she's not the only one of Smith's relatives to succumb to Alzheimer's, as his grandmother and great-aunt lost their battles as well.

On Thursday, June 1, at his newest Chicago spot, Reunion, Smith will host a special four-course dinner that will feature dishes that pay homage to these women who were important figures in his life.

Windy City Times: Reunion opened not too long ago. How many other spots do you have and does it ever become old-hat to open a new one?

Chef Art Smith: Well, we have Chef Art Smith's Homecomin' at Disney [in Lake Buena Vista, Florida] and then we have one at Orlando International Airport. Then I'm attached to [Chicago restaurants] Blue Door and Chicago q.

With the one in Orlando, it's licensed. You just have to keep on top of them and make sure the quality's right. The Disney one has been around eight years and is doing incredible—42 tons of fried chicken last year. But, yeah, you do [get a little nervous]; we want them to perform.

We opened last summer so we're hoping for a huge summer this year, and it's looking that way. But a great team doesn't necessarily come when [a place] opens; it comes collectively. People come to this tourist attraction [Navy Pier] from all over. Some people may want to eat at America's Dog or McDonald's, but for a sit-down experience they come to us. Here, there are mostly families—not a lot of singles. We get a lot of singles or [couples] from the neighborhood.

WCT: Regarding the June 1 dinner, could you tell the readers why it's so special to you?

Smith: I've had three family members pass away from Alzheimer's—my great-aunt, grandmother and mother.

They refer to {the disease] as "the long goodbye." There are cases where people are diagnosed with it and don't last very long, and there are people who live with it for many years—and there are moments when they're with you and when they're not. Great things are coming around, though.

Six million Americans are living with it. If you have the means, you have a caregiver but a lot don't so they have their families. It's like when [Smith's husband] Jesus went for his illness; I was with him through it. God forbid that people have to go through it alone.

WCT: And what's the Around the Table program, which you support?

Smith: The Alzheimer's Association has been working and hosting intimate four-course dinners around the city. It's just a way to get people engaged. We just had a very successful production of The Notebook—and the main character in the book has memory loss, and her lover tries to make her remember through letters. And it's becoming more public, like what's happening with poor Bruce [Willis]. When he got sick, no one wanted to say what it was.

I feel like with Alzheimer's, like with HIV/AIDS, some people feel it's a death sentence. But these dinners act as delicious ways to engage with people and make them aware.

I'm very fortunate. I can keep my loved ones in my thoughts but also through food. Food is a time capsule—and it allows you to have amazing moments.

I took my mother all over the world but, in the end, she couldn't remember anywhere she had been. She did remember my name, though. She was a great mother. My grandmother was the first in the family to have a hospitality business; she ran a boarding house. I always loved her name: Georgia Smith.

And my great-aunt, Millicent, was incredible; she was one of the first weatherwomen on television. One night, she ended up going on television in her frock—and this was in the '50s, so tongues were wagging. They got such a huge response, they asked her, "Could you continue to be glamorous when you give the weather?"

WCT: I've also been asking people about activism. How do you feel a chef can be an activist?

Smith: For me, it's not about making noise; it's about being present and supportive. It's no news that I'm a gay American dad, Jesus is from Venezuela and [we] have four adopted children—and I'm very public about my life.

To be honest with you, with what's happening in my home state [Florida] and with my partners at Disney, things become more difficult. I come from northern Florida, which is pretty red but they're loving people. It's not like I won't like you because you're a certain way; people have a choice. I don't like it when people use gender [and sexuality] as political weapons—but I don't know what screaming about that does. When we were [advocating for] marriage equality, I commented about some people and got some traction from them.

One of the things we're going to do is host something called "Rainbow Thursdays." What's happening now is like what happened in the '60s and '70s, when people of color came to the North to escape discrimination and all these other horrors from the South. And look at how San Francisco became an oasis for the LGBTQ+ community; you also have Palm Springs, West Hollywood and Fort Lauderdale. I just heard that in Wilton Manors, you can wear drag but not perform in it. I was just, like, "Ugh!"—that's one of the strongest gay communities in Florida.

So, I don't know. The only thing we can do is get more people on our side. Illinois' governor as well as Chicago's former and current mayor are working hard to do that. I'm very concerned about the elections and how they impact us. Will Illinois, Colorado, California and New York just become oases for the LGBTQ+ community? I'll be honest with you: When the NAACP put that [advisory] out and [Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis] said it was just a way for them to get their name out there, I said, "You're such an idiot." It's all embarrassing.

I think of the writer Zora Neale Hurston, who's from Florida. I wonder how she and others would feel about what's going on. As far as we've come, we haven't come as far as we think. Still, I wonder about the screaming but I do my best.

WCT: I understand people who flee toward these oases, but I also understand those who stay and fight.

Smith: Right. The whole thing is interesting.

Did you hear what [MSNBC's] Joe Scarborough said? He's from Florida and he said, "Does the man have a gay friend? Does he have gay employees in his cabinet or in his offices? Aren't there gay Republicans? I know lots of gay Republicans. What about South Carolina?" [Laughs]

I think humor is an incredible way to get back at them, too. Look at Saturday Night Live and comedians like Chris Rock. When he finally opened his mouth, oh my God! Maybe that's the answer.

I think the situation with Disney could go on for some time, though—maybe until elections. I still worry about it.

The Alzheimer's Benefit Dinner with Chef Art Smith will take place at the Navy Pier restaurant Reunion on Thursday, June 1 (the first day of Alzheimer's & Brain Awareness Month), 6:30-9 p.m. The menu will include deviled eggs; Chef Art's Famous Fried Chicken as well as salmon with seasonal vegetables; a side of macaroni and cheese; and hummingbird cupcakes.

Tickets are $100 each and are available here: .

This article shared 3132 times since Fri May 26, 2023
facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Out and Aging
Presented By


Gay News

SAVOR Breast-cancer awareness fundraisers, 'Hell's Kitchen' viewing party
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and many Chicagoland restaurants and bars plan to hold fundraisers to help raise awareness. For example, throughout the month, Estelle's, 2013 W. North Ave., will sell F?!k Cancer Cosmos (with ...

Gay News

SAVOR Jam-packed Chicago Gourmet; Easy Bar's 'Drag Me to Bingo'
Hundreds of people recently took part in one of the city's annual culinary highlights: Chicago Gourmet. Spanning Sept. 21-24 mostly at the Harris Theater rooftop at Millennium Park, Chicago Gourmet featured, as usual, several events, including ...

Gay News

Mexican Museum presents Queer Fiesta
In celebration of National Latino Month and Mexican Independence Day, the National Museum of Mexican Art presented Noche De Musas II and Queer Fiestas Patrias on Sept. 23. The event, which spotlighted female, queer and non-binary ...

Gay News

SAVOR Proxi chef Jennifer Kim on newest endeavor, gender-identity journey
Chef Jennifer Kim (they/them) has already accomplished much in their life. A second-generation Korean American, Kim was born and raised in Chicago. After leaving the University of Illinois at Chicago, Kim enrolled in culinary school at ...

Gay News

SAVOR Nobody's Darling, pastry chef, The Albert and more
Congrats go to Daisies and Thattu. These two spots—in Logan Square and Avondale, respectively—were among the restaurants on a New York Times list of the publication's "50 places in the country [it's] most excited about right ...

Gay News

Chicago musician, producer and DJ Don Crescendo killed in Avondale stabbing
Chicago's LGBTQ+ nightlife community and allies have rallied around the family and close friends of local longtime musician, producer and DJ Rodney Donovan Taylor, a.k.a. Don Crescendo, in the wake of his death by stabbing last ...

Gay News

19th annual Andersonville Arts Weekend Sept. 29 - Oct. 1
--From a press release - CHICAGO (September 18, 2023) The Andersonville Chamber of Commerce (ACC) is pleased to welcome back its 19tn annual Andersonville Arts Weekend, with the neighborhood transformed into a "walkable art gallery" ...

Gay News

SAVOR REVIEW Wake 'n Bacon brings its enticing global style to dinnertime
When a spot is named Wake 'n Bacon (420 W. Belmont Ave.;, you can pretty much expect that brunch is quite the specialty. (I haven't had the pleasure of trying that meal there, but I ...

Gay News

SAVOR Negroni Week, Equality Illinois brunch, new bakery and more
Negroni Week (Sept. 18-24) is returning. Restaurants and bars around the world are joining forces to celebrate Negroni Week—a global charity initiative in support of Slow Food, with Campari at its heart, that has raised more ...

Gay News

National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts Raices Gala hosts Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ricky Martin
--From a press release - CHICAGO, Illinois (September 15, 2023) — The National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture released photos and video from its 10th Raices Gala, where Lin-Manuel Miranda bestowed the National Ceiba Award on international superstar ...

Gay News

Lesbian chef Susan Feniger coming to Chicago for Reeling
Susan Feniger. FORKED—a verite-style documentary by award-winning filmmaker Liz Lachman that captures moments and the impactful career of her life partner: culinarian, author, entrepreneur and James Beard Award winner Susan ...

Gay News

THEATER Jim Henson production in Chicago on Nov. 14-Dec. 31
A live theatrical adaptation of Jim Henson's Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is making its Chicago debut Nov. 14-Dec. 31, at the Studebaker Theater at the historic Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave., Broadway World revealed. ...

Gay News

BOOKS/SAVOR 'Made in Chicago' authors dish on stories behind local treats
When it comes to culinary scenes, Chicago is second to none, but do people really know the origins of local dishes—or even which ones have origins in this city? Revered food journalists Monica Eng and David ...

Gay News

SAVOR Upcoming events, including a wine dinner and a paella fest
The upscale Mexican restaurant Tzuco, 720 N. State St., will mark its fourth anniversary and celebrate Mexican Independence Day on Friday, Sept. 15. The event, "4 Anos, 4 Manos," will spotlight dishes by Tzuco Chef Carlos ...

Gay News

Theater Review: A Taste of Soul brings music and food center stage
By Brian Kirst - We all know the sluggish quagmire of weekday work mornings. Often the only thing that gets us moving and able to face the day is our favorite songs. While all of the Black Ensemble Theater productions ...


Copyright © 2023 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.

All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam     
Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.