Call it a mid-career crisis. Now 55 and with one eye on his foodie legacy, chef Art Smith plans to transform Table Fifty-Two, his Southern comfort food spot, into a farm-to-table restaurant called Blue Door Kitchen and Tavern (52 W. Elm St., Gold Coast).
Sparked by the recent fresh-food craze and a yen for his rural roots, Smith, who grew up on a farm himself, says Table’s conversion will be complete by January. “I chose to be a chef because I ran away from [farming],” says the Southern-food maestro, who reached out via e-mail to share the news. “But in today’s world, a chef must know and understand freshness.”
As for the farm behind the table, Smith will source ingredients from the 160-acre Indiana plot once owned by his former boss Oprah and now owned by developer Fred Latsko. Smith’s revamped menu is still in the works, but he says his fried chicken will remain (you can exhale now). He’ll just use free-range birds for the recipe instead.
Past that, Smith would not reveal much. He wants to remake the current courtyard patio into a city garden and bring a more casual vibe to the lower level, anchored by a bigger bar slinging local beer and cocktails that he describes as “#GardenToGlass.”
On top of greenifying Table Fifty-Two, Smith also plans to open a farm-to-table culinary school in an “1860 Southern mansion estate” he recently bought (Chicago will get a satellite campus). Oh, and if he’s not busy enough, he’s also taken a job as pitmaster at Chicago Q, which Latsko also has a stake in.