Chef Art Smith shares tips for healthy comfort cooking

(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Versace)
(Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Versace) /

Chef Art Smith wants you to learn healthy comfort cooking because life is full of happy.

If have ever had a bite of his fried chicken, biscuits or hummingbird cake, you know that Chef Art Smith can make a memorable plate of comfort food. While his big personality can fill a room, his food and flavors make a lasting impression. Now, his healthy comfort cooking brings the happy to a full life.

The celebrated chef has had a long, storied career. From awarding winning restaurateur to a voice for social causes to a Top Chef Masters appearance, Chef Art has used his celebrity for good causes. Now, he is showing everyone how a balanced lifestyle can bring a full, happy life.

As Chef Art Smith’s Homcomin’ at Disney Springs re-opens with a new expanded patio, there many reasons to celebrate the good life. More importantly, Chef Art has a weekly cooking show on Instagram, Healthy Comfort Cooking Show, which airs Wednesday at 4 p.m.

When foodies turned into Chef Art’s show, the popular chef looked a little different. Recently, he lost 70 pounds. Through some lifestyle changes, he learned to commit to a healthier lifestyle. Instead gaining the quarantine 15, Chef Art committed to a change.

Recently, I had the opportunity to chat with Chef Art. For anyone who has wondered if you can have that piece of cake and still embrace a healthy lifestyle, his response gives everyone encouragement to embrace the moment. And, yes, those little treats are deserved.

For Chef Art, he believed that now was the right time to commit to a change. He said, “Turning 60, I felt that I needed to get my act together being that I’m in the best part of my life. The pandemic, of course, made all of us restaurant owners feel it was the apocalypse. While I can’t help that, I can make myself stronger so I can be my best through this challenge.”

In some ways, Chef Art found a goal that was achievable. It wasn’t extreme, but it fit him. He said, “My ultimate goal was to stop taking medicine and to feel better. I’m also thankful for Lucas Cancelier for visiting me and telling me that instead of complaining, I should get started on working towards a better, healthier life.”

While Chef Art was committed, he had help with his journey. Lucas Cancelier offered that guidance. The story of how this partnership came to be could inspire others to get moving, too.

“Lucas Cancelier, pro rugby player, received an invitation to my home in rural North Florida, to visit me and my husband, Jesus Salgueiro, and our 4 children. I’m so grateful that he stopped by on his way to Spain to see me. He saw that I was challenged and expressed that he believed I could gain even more confidence and health at age 60. Who would have ever imagined that I would get quarantined with a pro rugby player and have him change my entire life and reawaken my brand with a younger approach to social media? His weekly virtual show is watched by thousands and he gave me the confidence I needed to succeed. He created our wildly successful “Chef Art Smith’s Healthy Comfort” show.”

Chef Art Smith
Chef Art Smith shows his new exercise regime, photo provided by Art Smith /

While those pictures of Art Smith and cows made many people smile, the idea behind those pictures is bigger than the image. When the Florida sunshine is bright, why shouldn’t people get outside and start moving.

Chef Art said, “In our rural country setting, we have escaped much of what the bigger cities have dealt with. We were able to go outside in the sunshine and I was able to walk and jog. Every day since February 1, I run 3 miles a day. I’m preparing to run the Walt Disney World Marathon.”

Although a marathon might not be in everyone’s future, anyone can take small steps toward a goal. Even though that first step might be scary, it gets easier. Just like that old saying, put one foot in front of another, you have to choose to move.

For Chef Art, change spurred more change. “I had many “coming to Jesus moments with Lucas”, as Oprah Winfrey says. Getting started was tough but once you start and you begin to feel better, you see your results and you will wonder why you took so long to get started. Good health feels and tastes delicious. Find your happy!”

That idea of find your happy is a simple statement but one that many people struggle to uncover. Even though some people find comfort in food, that comforting bite doesn’t have to disappear in a healthy lifestyle. Since food nurtures, depriving yourself of life’s delicious bites seems unnecessary.

In many ways, Chef Art talks about balance. Since he is known for many popular comfort food recipes, he recommends a blended approach. He said, “What if I said, “don’t change those recipes!” Just have them once a week. During the rest of week, eats lots of fruits and vegetables and good proteins. Cut back on alcohol and sugar.”

“You can have your cake and eat it too…just a bite or two once a week. I hate eating salad every day and so do most people. Just remember the more you eat, the more you must exercise. Diets don’t work, but portion control does and small meals do.”

As he says, life is about balance. Any happy, healthy life cannot leave out one portion. Making conscious choices, especially supporting fresh, local ingredients can support those lifestyle changes.

If a person wants to make those changes, it is possible, but you have to look. Chef Art said, “Farms are across America and eating fresh local sustainable food is better for you and helps to support the local economy. The amount of nutrients that comes from fresh food far exceeds foods that are picked and stored. Home cooks will find that after you have fresh local ingredients, you will only want them.”

Since fresh, local ingredients are often full of flavor, many home cooks find that they start to crave those ingredients. Little swaps can bring good changes. Chef Art recommends adding more fruits and vegetables to your diets. As a dad, himself, he knows that kids love to eat. Still, giving kids healthy options can be a start of a whole family healthy lifestyle.

While a fruit salad can be a tasty way to end the meal, there are times when a slice of Chef Art’s Hummingbird Cake at Homecomin’ must be satisfied. Chef Art says to eat that cake.

As he said, “life without cake is sad! Enjoy your cake, but not every day. Remember to share your food and the best to share is dessert.”

That sweet ending at the end of a meal is more than just another bite to satisfy a hunger. Chef Art said, “Sweets remind us of the sweetness of life. In the south, we love chocolate cake at funerals but you don’t have to wait for someone to depart to enjoy it – just enjoy your cake but once a week.”

With the advice from Chef Art Smith fresh in my mind, I look forward to the slice of Hummingbird cake at Homecomin’ this weekend. After my Saturday morning run, that slice of cake can be my sweet treat to mark my personal goal of running every day for the past 90 days. And, I will make sure to eat my veggies with my dinner before I have my dessert. Life is about balance.

Don’t forget to watch Chef Art Smith on his Healthy Comfort Cooking Show weekly on Instagram.

Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ is his restaurant located at Disney Springs.

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How do you find your happy? What changes have you made to your lifestyle that have had a lasting impact?