10.04.2016

October Chef of the Month: Jim Smith, Executive Chef of the State of Alabama

Name: Chef Jim Smith

Name of Restaurants: Alabama Governor’s Mansion

Title: Chairman of the Alabama Seafood Marketing Commission

Where were you born and raised?

Born in Panama City, FL, raised in Troy, AL.

Where did you train to become a chef?

I studied at Johnson and Wales in Charlotte, NC.

What inspired you to become a chef?

I have always loved the arts and being creative; working with food just calls to me. Being a chef provides space where I can exercise those creative muscles and translate that into something others can appreciate.

What others jobs, if any, have you worked within the food industry?

I have been in the industry for 20 years and have done almost every restaurant job from serving to tending bar, being a wine director, and a general manager. These experiences in all aspects of the restaurant industry have helped me understand all intricacies involved in providing the best possible experience for guests.

What does your typical workday involve?

A lot of cooking and planning. At the mansion, I am the whole kitchen staff. I do every bit of all the cooking. Being the only person in the kitchen has taught me the importance of having a smart plan that can be effectively executed, no matter if I’m making a small dinner or a party for one hundred people. The mansion has great gardens where we grow a good deal of the herbs and vegetables used in the kitchen. I love getting out there every day and harvesting what the gardens have to offer. It is also very important for me to feature items produced in the state, whether it’s Alabama Gulf Seafood, or local cheeses, or Chilton County peaches, or lady peas from the farmer’s market, I do my best to highlight the amazing foods of the state of Alabama.

What are your professional goals?

One day I would like to have my own restaurant.

What’s your favorite seafood dish to serve up for yourself and your family?

When cooking for my family, I like to keep it simple. A shrimp boil or raw oysters are very easy to cook at home and always a winner.

If you could cook for with any celebrity of historical figure, who would it be?

It would be amazing to cook for James Beard.

If you weren’t a chef, what line of work would you pursue?

Probably a debate coach. It is an activity that I really enjoyed in high school and college.

What makes Alabama Gulf Seafood special?

Alabama has some of the best seafood in the country. The waters of our coastline reflect the flavors of the state. Our waters are teaming with the most amazing seafood and it’s important to support our neighbors on the coast who bring that seafood to our tables. As a chef, I am always looking for the best ingredients, and I am confident that whenever I turn to Alabama seafood it will be exactly what I need.