5 questions for Art Smith, cookbook author and Oprah’s chef, who opens Art Smith’s Table this summer on the Gold Coast (52 W. Elm St., in the old Albert’s space)
Q: What’s Table going to be all about?
A: The whole restaurant is going to revolve around a woodburning oven in the middle of the room. All the food is going to come out of that oven.
Q: Like what?
A: We’ll do Montreal-style bagels out of the oven in the morning, frittata, focaccia. We will have little pizzas, like a wonderful smoked-duck or caramelized-onion pizza. I always dreamed of putting a regular customer’s initials on a casserole dish and asking if I could fill it up for you. I’m working with an idea for a cozy, so you could take your casserole and put it in your cozy and take it with you-and then you come back and we do it again.
Q: How about the décor?
A: I want it to be a charming bistro, but it will look like what it is-an old carriage house. A stone floor and little bistro tables. And a big wonderful stone bar when you walk in. You can stand there and have some great marinated olives and a glass of wine while you wait for your food. People should feel like ladies and gentlemen while they are waiting.
Q: Will you be in the kitchen every night?
A: Ray Villalobos is going to be the chef. He’s a graduate of Washburne and a test chef for Donna Pierce at the Tribune. He’s been working with me for a year and learning my style and teaching me a lot about the food of Mexico.
Q: Sounds like a big change from the private cooking you’re known for . . . ?
A: I know how to serve people well, because my whole life I have been serving them in their homes. I want to capture that feeling, that sense of home.