Such is life for Cyrille Holota and Art Smith, two of the sharpest knives in Atlanta’s collective kitchen and beyond.
The culinary stalwarts have forged wildly different paths — Holota honing his skills from an early age in his native France; Smith carving out his executive chef chops alongside luminaries like TV personality Oprah Winfrey, pop singer Lady Gaga and President Barack Obama.
Holota heads up the kitchen at BLT Steak Atlanta in downtown. Meanwhile, Smith’s Southern Art in Buckhead is one of five restaurants around the country on his co-ownership roster.
The former is not known to stray far from BLT’s aesthetically pleasing environs. The latter was in town last week as part of an ongoing crusade to curb obesity and Type 2 diabetes, conditions that are close to home.
The Neighbor Newspapers caught up with both men to discuss their careers and passion projects among other things.
o on finding his talent young
“I guess I was 6 years old when I discovered it. I’ve always been very close to the kitchen. … My mom always cooked at home for the family and I always put my fingers everywhere.
“… I’d stand on a chair at the stove and test everything. In France we are very close to the food — sit down with the family, that sort of thing.”
o on his philosophy
“We have to be 1. creative and 2. very simple. For me, it’s very important to have very fresh produce, beautiful beef, fresh fish. … You can’t cook good when you have bad produce, fish or meat.
“For me, the quality of everything is very very important. And, stay simple — that’s the most difficult part. … Just two or three ingredients can make a great dish.”
o on breaking the mold
“Like with our [recent] whole animal boucherie series, we try to be fun as well. Sometimes, we give the customer the chance to discover something different. Not everybody’s going to eat the cheeks from a cow, … but there are so many different things we can do.
“And it’s very fun — fun for me, fun for the customer. This is what we try to do … and to [keep it] simple.”
o on his passion project
“I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes back in 2008.
“I’m working with Merck on the Taking Diabetes to Heart program to help other people living with it understand that small but important changes in their lifestyle, including food choices, can help them better manage the disease.”
o on healthy options
“You have to make conscious choices. Type 2 diabetes can be easily controlled by diet. I like to say that if you stay away from foods that weren’t made by someone’s hand, you’ll be [much better off]. … The first thing people want to say is, ‘The food that I cook is making me sick.’
“No, it’s not. It’s the food that you don’t cook — the food that you buy that’s processed — is doing all that.”