Portrait on a Plate: Talking Shop with Chef Jim Smith

September 14, 2017

It’s clear that out of the many stars that fell on Alabama, Chef Jim Smith is one of the brightest in the bunch.

Executive Chef of the State of Alabama, Chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, and proud husband are just three of the many hats Smith wears in his daily life. He is an advocate for the employment of local resources, promoting farmer’s markets, and events that support his beloved state’s food products.

It is an honor to have him back again this week for The Wharf Uncorked, as both judge and participant. He kindly dished with us recently about what makes him tick, on and off the clock. Dig in!

Jim, how did you arrive at your passion? For most folks, it can be painstakingly hard to find or choose a path in life. What aided your direction?

For me, I was always drawn to the artistic. Music and the arts have always meant a lot to me; food and cooking was something that I discovered as a way to express myself creatively. There is something special about taking raw ingredients and crafting them into something special for others to enjoy. In that way, cooking is very much like music or art.

So, you had to know this question was coming. What was your experience like on Bravo’s Top Chef?

Top Chef was an amazing experience; it was incredibly hard but I had such a great time. Making it onto the show is quite a process: there are interviews, auditions, and a lot nervous waiting. I love competition and creating so there is something exciting every day on Top Chef. But, probably the best thing I took away from my time on the show is 14 amazing new friends who mean so much to me. I am proud of how I performed, even though I thought that I had more to cook on the show. I would do it again without thinking twice.

You certainly made quite an impact on the show and it was pretty cool watching you spread your love for our “Sweet Home”. Speaking of Bama, as Chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, tell us a little about your involvement with Alabama Gulf Seafood.

As the Chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission, it is my job to be a spokesperson for everything Alabama Seafood. It is an amazing job. The Gulf and our shores particularly are full of so many great seafood options, it makes it very easy to be a supporter of Alabama seafood. We also love supporting events like The Wharf Uncorked and other events that highlight Alabama Seafood. Events like the Chef Showdown are great for highlighting a specific Alabama Seafood by showing how chefs cook that ingredient, and making that ingredient more approachable to the public.

We are elated to have you bring that knowledge and spirit to Uncorked! Delve into the lip-smacking recipe you’ll be preparing for your demo at the Grand Tasting. How did you come up with this one?

The dish that I am preparing for the demo at the Grand Tasting is a dish that any home cook could prepare. It features all local ingredients like Bill-E’s Bacon from Fairhope and Alabama King Mackerel. King Mackerel is a fish that is abundant in the Gulf, in season, and is globally revered. But, we as Southerners tend to not eat this great fish as much as we should. Most of the Mackerel that is caught in the Gulf is exported around the world. I wanted to pick a dish that is very easy to execute, delicious, and features great local ingredients.

Um, YUM! Glad you will be utilizing such a naturally nutrient-packed local fish and making it approachable to our guests at the event. This isn’t your first rodeo here. What is your favorite part of the festival?

My favorite part of The Wharf Uncorked is getting together with a group of people to celebrate food and wine on the Alabama beaches. The Wharf is a great venue for this type of celebration. I’ve also got to say that the competition gets me excited; I always look forward to judging and watching competitions.

Well, we more than welcome you and share in your excitement for some friendly battle. Okay, lastly, the fun stuff. A list of preferences.

Favorite music to listen to when cooking.

I listen to a lot of Finebaum in the kitchen.

Desired spirit, wine, or beer to drink after a long day.

After a long day in the kitchen, the one drink I crave the most is a Coke.

Ultimate comfort food.

My favorite comfort food is black eyed peas and corn bread.

Join us at the Kick-Off Party tonight and witness the Chef Showdown in which Jim Smith will be judging. Also, don’t miss his “Surf, Turf & Sky” cooking demonstration paired with a cocktail by John Emerald Distilling Company this Saturday at the Grand Tasting.

For more information on all times and locations for The Wharf Uncorked Food & Wine Festival, visit http://thewharfuncorked.com/.

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