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Celebrity Chef Art Smith to Revitalize Florida Hometown With Multiple Culinary Projects, Including Disney Restaurant


Art Smith — the charming celebrity chef who once officiated 101 gay weddings for free in Miami in celebration of the lifting of Florida’s gay marriage ban — has big plans for Jasper, Florida, the poor, rural town where he grew up.

Smith, who has previously worked for Oprah Winfrey and former Florida governors Bob Graham and Jeb Bush, moved back to Jasper from Chicago just last summer, along with his husband and four children. Despite the fact that Jasper is a conservative Christian town and Smith is an out gay man, the chef is well-loved at home. “They just accept Art for Art,” a town commissioner in nearby Madison, Florida, told the New York Times.

With the help of a few key financial backers, Smith has big plans to recharge the local economy. Those plans include a commercial bakery that will supply his upcoming restaurant at Disney World, three hours away, called Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine; an organic produce store; another restaurant; and a school for agriculture, cooking, and meteorology.

“We’re going to make it look like a Cracker Barrel with better food, honey,” Smith told the Times of the culinary complex.

A 60,000 square-foot complex will be home to the restaurant and produce store, plus a farm and catfish ponds on the 38 acres surrounding the building. This fall, Smith will open the Reunion Florida Garden and Kitchen School inside a mansion he purchased for $450,000.

After years of working with celebrity clients, opening a number of Southern-inspired restaurants, and becoming a celebrity himself, Smith is ready to focus his seemingly boundless energy on a place that truly needs it. Jasper, one of Florida’s most impoverished towns, could seriously stand to benefit from the return of one of its own.

“My mission is to use the business to fund the good stuff I want to do,” Smith said. “At the end of the day, do I want to be known for some award-winning restaurant or that I turned a town around and helped make it sustainable? That’s better than any damn Beard Award.”


On the latest episode of the podcast WTF, Marc Maron talks with Against Me! singer and recent Chicago transplant Laura Jane Grace about her life, her experiences with transgender dysphoria and her music.

Lady Gaga, who performed with Tony Bennett at Ravinia on Friday and Saturday, celebrated Pride in Chicago on Sunday, posting photos from her apartment above Millennium Park. Unfortunately, she appeared to mistake a mariachi concert at the Pritzker Pavilion for the Pride Parade.

Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big. So many happy people. Happy pride!! #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued. #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the latest episode of the podcast WTF, Marc Maron talks with Against Me! singer and recent Chicago transplant Laura Jane Grace about her life, her experiences with transgender dysphoria and her music.

Lady Gaga, who performed with Tony Bennett at Ravinia on Friday and Saturday, celebrated Pride in Chicago on Sunday, posting photos from her apartment above Millennium Park. Unfortunately, she appeared to mistake a mariachi concert at the Pritzker Pavilion for the Pride Parade.

Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big. So many happy people. Happy pride!! #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued. #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the latest episode of the podcast WTF, Marc Maron talks with Against Me! singer and recent Chicago transplant Laura Jane Grace about her life, her experiences with transgender dysphoria and her music.

Lady Gaga, who performed with Tony Bennett at Ravinia on Friday and Saturday, celebrated Pride in Chicago on Sunday, posting photos from her apartment above Millennium Park. Unfortunately, she appeared to mistake a mariachi concert at the Pritzker Pavilion for the Pride Parade.

Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big. So many happy people. Happy pride!! #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued. #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the latest episode of the podcast WTF, Marc Maron talks with Against Me! singer and recent Chicago transplant Laura Jane Grace about her life, her experiences with transgender dysphoria and her music.

Lady Gaga, who performed with Tony Bennett at Ravinia on Friday and Saturday, celebrated Pride in Chicago on Sunday, posting photos from her apartment above Millennium Park. Unfortunately, she appeared to mistake a mariachi concert at the Pritzker Pavilion for the Pride Parade.

Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big. So many happy people. Happy pride!! #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued. #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the latest episode of the podcast WTF, Marc Maron talks with Against Me! singer and recent Chicago transplant Laura Jane Grace about her life, her experiences with transgender dysphoria and her music.

Lady Gaga, who performed with Tony Bennett at Ravinia on Friday and Saturday, celebrated Pride in Chicago on Sunday, posting photos from her apartment above Millennium Park. Unfortunately, she appeared to mistake a mariachi concert at the Pritzker Pavilion for the Pride Parade.

Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big. So many happy people. Happy pride!! #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued. #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the latest episode of the podcast WTF, Marc Maron talks with Against Me! singer and recent Chicago transplant Laura Jane Grace about her life, her experiences with transgender dysphoria and her music.

Lady Gaga, who performed with Tony Bennett at Ravinia on Friday and Saturday, celebrated Pride in Chicago on Sunday, posting photos from her apartment above Millennium Park. Unfortunately, she appeared to mistake a mariachi concert at the Pritzker Pavilion for the Pride Parade.

Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big. So many happy people. Happy pride!! #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued. #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the latest episode of the podcast WTF, Marc Maron talks with Against Me! singer and recent Chicago transplant Laura Jane Grace about her life, her experiences with transgender dysphoria and her music.

Lady Gaga, who performed with Tony Bennett at Ravinia on Friday and Saturday, celebrated Pride in Chicago on Sunday, posting photos from her apartment above Millennium Park. Unfortunately, she appeared to mistake a mariachi concert at the Pritzker Pavilion for the Pride Parade.

Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big. So many happy people. Happy pride!! #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued. #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the latest episode of the podcast WTF, Marc Maron talks with Against Me! singer and recent Chicago transplant Laura Jane Grace about her life, her experiences with transgender dysphoria and her music.

Lady Gaga, who performed with Tony Bennett at Ravinia on Friday and Saturday, celebrated Pride in Chicago on Sunday, posting photos from her apartment above Millennium Park. Unfortunately, she appeared to mistake a mariachi concert at the Pritzker Pavilion for the Pride Parade.

Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big. So many happy people. Happy pride!! #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued. #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the latest episode of the podcast WTF, Marc Maron talks with Against Me! singer and recent Chicago transplant Laura Jane Grace about her life, her experiences with transgender dysphoria and her music.

Lady Gaga, who performed with Tony Bennett at Ravinia on Friday and Saturday, celebrated Pride in Chicago on Sunday, posting photos from her apartment above Millennium Park. Unfortunately, she appeared to mistake a mariachi concert at the Pritzker Pavilion for the Pride Parade.

Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big. So many happy people. Happy pride!! #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued. #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

On the latest episode of the podcast WTF, Marc Maron talks with Against Me! singer and recent Chicago transplant Laura Jane Grace about her life, her experiences with transgender dysphoria and her music.

Lady Gaga, who performed with Tony Bennett at Ravinia on Friday and Saturday, celebrated Pride in Chicago on Sunday, posting photos from her apartment above Millennium Park. Unfortunately, she appeared to mistake a mariachi concert at the Pritzker Pavilion for the Pride Parade.

Watching over Chicago Pride from my apartment and smiling so big. So many happy people. Happy pride!! #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015

This is just about the coolest things I ever saw. It feels good to know how many of my friends and loved ones are out celebrating and feeling valued. #lovewins

Posted by Lady Gaga on Sunday, June 28, 2015