Last night Top Chef Masters season four premiered on Bravo and I already know that I’m rooting for Art Smith to win.
Full disclosure: I didn’t actually love the bacon doughnuts, I just thought it would get your attention. However, the appetizer I had during that meal — brunch at Art Smith’s Table Fifty-Two in Chicago — was one of the most delicious plates of food I have ever eaten in my young life. It isn’t on the menu anymore (He can’t get stagnant, come on now), but it was crispy pork belly with a fried egg and pickled okra. I honestly don’t know what possessed me to order it, but I still remember how mouthwateringly delicious it was.
The man is known as the master of upscale Southern comfort food. Table Fifty-Two‘s current brunch menu features blueberry ricotta pancakes, classic shrimp and grits, and — stop it right now — short rib and egg rancheros with crispy tortillas, drunken beans and guajillo salsa. Delicious.
Granted, it’s not surprising that his food is amazing when you take a gander at his credentials: He is a James Beard award winner that has cooked for the likes of Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama, and was a personal chef for years…for Oprah.
But on the premiere of Top Chef Masters last night, Art Smith didn’t just emerge to the top of the pack based on skill (though he was on the winning team and made an incredible-looking ”Pan de tre leches” with a candied cocoa nib and a tequila caramel sauce), but personality. The last time I saw Art he was a big jovial charming funny Southern guy. Now, he’s all that but without the “big.” After being diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Art committed to eating healthier and lost over a 100 pounds. So yeah, he’s impressive. But most importantly, Art Smith is about to be the comic relief of Top Chef Masters season 4. And he looks damn good in a fedora.
He was funny throughout the episode, but here are some of the top lines out of the mouth of this lovable Southern bear:
“I’ve never met Clark and Mark and I keep thinking they’re brothers but then I realize…they’re lovers.”
“He’s a youngster, he’s all full of vim and vigor.”
“There is no fuckin’ brioche!”
“I cook for billionaires. I don’t have budgets. I. JUST. BUY.”
“He comes in with that big smile and I’m like yeah, yeah, yeah, I smell a rat.”
“Honey please. We’re all tense but that dish needs to be on the buffet. It’s for Missy.”
While other first episode highlights included Curtis Stone’s very dapper gray suit, Curtis Stone’s hair, Curtis Stone’s eyes, Curtis Stone’s voice, Curtis Stone’s smile, Lorena Garcia being adorable, and Takashi saying “Oh my gosh. I don’t eat the bolognas,” it was obvious that Art Smith is going to be the fan favorite this season. And based on my crispy pork belly and Art’s fedoras, I am more than okay with that.