Chef Art Smith, 55, is taking over the Naples Bay Resort space vacated at the end of July by Mereday’s Fine Dining. Smith, who has won two James Beard Foundation awards and appeared on “Top Chef,” was personal chef to Oprah Winfrey for a decade until 2007 and was a frequent guest on her TV show.
“Though I have worked for celebrities, elected officials from both sides of the aisle and many others, there is nothing like coming back to Florida,” said Smith, who is a sixth-generation Floridian and a Florida State graduate.
Smith, who formerly worked for Florida governors Bob Graham and Jeb Bush, made a Naples connection 10 years ago when he cooked for former first lady Barbara Bush and the authors at a Celebration of Reading event here. The chef had an especially delicious moment with his 12-layer chocolate cake.
In addition to the restaurant, Smith will be in charge of the resort’s catering and room service. He is now interviewing the chef de cuisine for his restaurant, where he already is committed to personally hosting local charity events.
Although Smith was not available for an interview Thursday, he refers to a garden-to-kitchen approach to culinary options on his Naples menu, according to a news release from the resort.
“I will be pairing Southern American food with what I just saw in Milan at the World’s Fair. Italian families understand the love and power of food, so the pairing is perfect,” Smith is quoted as saying. “For Naples’ sophisticated diners, this will definitely be a one-of-a-kind menu with a lot of surprises.”
Smith will be at Naples Bay Resort periodically in November and December, and will host tasting sessions of his menu in December, Bennett said.
Smith’s resort restaurant will be the fourth to occupy that scenic spot steps away from boats docked on the bay. Besides Mereday’s Fine Dining, the space was previously home to L’Orient and originally Olio restaurant when the resort opened in 2008.
In addition to Smith’s restaurant, a gourmet coffee shop will be opening in a former ice cream store at the resort during the first quarter of next year. Catalina Café will be operated by a young couple who grinds their own coffee beans, Bennett said.
Chef Smith also recently announced that he will be opening a restaurant, Homecoming, at Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs next summer. He already is executive chef and co-owner of Table Fifty-Two in Chicago, Southern Art and Bourbon Bar in Atlanta, and Art and Soul in Washington, D.C.