Chef Jason Smith's culinary career literally sprouted right out of the ground. Raised on an organic farm just outside Indianapolis, Smith learned the value of cooking with fresh, farm-raised ingredients, as his mom grew and sold edible flowers. He then attended Johnson & Wales
in Miami and landed a primo job at Nemo
under famed chef Michael Schwartz
. He also worked at Wish
, the former Pearl (upstairs from Nikki Beach
), and at the Biltmore Hotel
. Smith jumped ship from Table 8, Govind Armstrong
's former South Beach restaurant, just in time, landing softly as executive chef at Steven Starr's popular Steak 954
Now, after months of promises, finally Steak 954 has gone past those luscious hunks of beef to deliver what promises to be a delicious brunch, with options like vanilla french toast dulce de leche, short rib potato pancakes, and blueberry
pancakes with chantilly cream. Hmm. Perhaps it was during the menu
creation process that Smith came up with that kinky syrup fantasy. Wha?
New Times: Describe your best or worst dining experience.
Smith: I went to a large upscale Asian-fusion restaurant a few years
ago with my wife and the menu read really well, but when the food
arrived (20 minutes later in a dead dining room) it was horrible. I
then asked for sriracha, a lime, soy sauce, cilantro, sesame oil,
sliced jalapeno, and a bowl.I then remixed the dishes into something
good. The server looked at me funny, but it made the meal edible.
NT: If you came back in your next life as a food item, what would it be and how would you like to be served?
JS: A Spanish ham served with Spanish cheeses, olives, roasted peppers, grilled bread, and a glass of Sassicaia Super Tuscan
NT: If you could serve a meal to any famous person, alive or dead, who would it be and what would you cook for him/her?
JS: Jimi Hendrix. I would cook a Gachot & Gachot dry-aged ribeye with parsnip flan, broccolini, and hot apple tart tatin.
NT: What was your most embarrassing cooking-related moment?
JS: I am not embarrassed easily and I try to block out my embarrassing moments.
NT: What food/utensil/technique still confounds you?
JS: Herbicides, pesticides, hormones, chemicals added to our foods
NT: What's your favorite food/cooking-related joke?
JS: "That's what she said!" No matter how far I am in the weeds or how stressful my day has been, I will always laugh when someone says that.
NT: If your significant other gave you a pass, what celebrity chef would you most like to enjoy a naked cooking session with and why?
JS: Giada De Laurentiis. She is beautiful, talented, and a very nice person.
NT: What's your favorite soundtrack/song to cook to?
JS: At work: James Brown's greatest hits. At home: Santana Abraxas
NT: Which famous chef, alive or dead, would you like to shadow for a day (assuming you haven't already had the chance)?
NT: What is your dream culinary trip?
JS: Italy and France, working along the way in gardens and small shops curing meats, making cheese, making wine, etcetera.
NT: If you weren't a chef, you'd be...?
JS: Customizing '60s muscle cars or building choppers with my dad
NT: What's the hottest thing a date could whip up for you in the kitchen and why?
JS: Strawberries and whipped cream with chocolate sauce... to eat, of course.
NT: What's your favorite junk food and where do you get it?
JS: Sesame seed brittle from an Asian market
NT: Please complete this sentence: Never trust a chef who/that____?
JS: Won't look you in the eye when speaking to you. They are lying or hiding something.
NT: If you could be slathered head-to-toe in one food item--without fear of getting an allergic reaction--what would it be and why?
JS: Grade A Vermont maple syrup. Warm and tasty, slippery and sticky.