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It's an interesting story. Father of two culinarians--one a chef at a well-liked local bistro and the other attending a prestigious culinary school--decides to leave the nine-to-five world and join the ranks of his kids to become a pastry chef.

Like sons, like father 

It's an interesting story. Father of two culinarians--one a chef at a well-liked local bistro and the other attending a prestigious culinary school--decides to leave the nine-to-five world and join the ranks of his kids to become a pastry chef.

This is the story of Richard Smith, a former mortgage company supervisor who found himself squeezed out of a job several years ago. Meanwhile, his sons, Pete and Marshall, were embarking on careers in separate culinary settings. Pete, who had been working in kitchens ever since he was 15, landed the chef de cuisine position with Bistro 607 at 607 Glenwood Ave. in downtown Raleigh. Marshall, who was a student searching for a major at N.C. State, took a part-time job with Michael Dean's in North Raleigh as a salad person, and within two weeks decided that working with food was what he really wanted to do. He subsequently signed up at Wake Tech to build his career and then left to attend the New England Culinary Institute in Vermont.

Everyone was on his way... except Dad. While Smith sought temporary work in search of the right fit, his wife, Jo, was about to present him with a gift that would change his life. She knew Smith was fond of cooking at home and for friends. So one day after yet another experience of unsatisfying temp work, Jo told her husband, "I hope you don't kill me, but I've enrolled you at Wake Tech in their cooking school." After the initial phase of surprise mixed with the fear of returning to school after so many years, Smith said, "Let's give it a try."

But as soon as he started school, he felt welcomed into this community of chefs. He especially loved the baking and pastry program. His age never seemed to be an issue, and he finished the two-year program before he knew it. In the meantime, Marshall Smith had introduced his pop to the proprietors of Michael Dean's, who also owned Bogarts, Hi-5 and two eateries that had not yet opened--Vivo and Twisted Fork. When Vivo opened at the beginning of July, Dean Ogan, one of the restaurant's owners, offered Smith the assistant pastry chef position. He leapt at the chance.

So is Smith happy? From the calm, burnished look he wore when I met him after a 12-hour shift, he seems ecstatic.

Smith says "I wouldn't change a thing. There are so many people out there who don't enjoy their work and I'm not one of them any more." Life is sweet for Smith, but what's even sweeter is that Smith and his sons get together amid their crammed schedules, to eat, chat and share their love of food.


Around Town

Raleigh/Cary
Back in the news is Ashley Christensen , chef at Enoteca Vin , 410 Glenwood Ave. After raising over $50,000 through the Tour de Friends to benefit people with AIDS/HIV, Ashley returned full throttle to the stoves. She's now in New York City spending eight fun-filled days under the tutelage of three great chefs, including Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin, known for his "seafood extravaganza." On Christensen's return she intends to prepare a multi-course dinner based on her New York experience... Cattycorner from Vin is Sunflower, a soft-spoken lunch spot that this month celebrates 20 years of sandwich and fresh specialty making. Owner Deborah Ferebee wishes to extend her great appreciation toward her customers, especially the regulars, who have kept her business vital for so long...

On Sept. 6, around 3 p.m., the restaurants, Ri-Ra, 42nd Street Oyster Bar and Southend Brewery will be closing off West and Jones Streets for a rock, drink and shuck extravaganza. That's right!! It's Oyster Fest time. It'll cost a wee bit, but it should be worth it...

At the Bloomsbury Bistro, 509-101 West Whitaker Mill Road, chef John Toler is planning to serve a four-course dinner based on the "Flavors of Thailand," on Sept. 8 and 22, with the second date added to accommodate demand. The evening begins at 6 p.m. with a social and the cost is $75 per person, which includes demonstrations, dinner, wine, tax and tip. Call the restaurant at 834-9011 for reservations...

Further downtown, Nick Rossicci, owner/chef at Est Est Est, 19 West Hargett, will be opening Cuba right next door. Rossicci draws from his time spent in Havana and from the recipes created by members of his family who own a restaurant in Havana, La Romanita, which has been open since 1957. Cuba's menu includes ropa vieja, a traditional Cuban beef stew, paella (no different from the Spanish version), papa rellenos and picadillo, which sounds like a small offense but it is actually a dish of ground meat served with olives. Fresh seafood will also be a main focus of the Cuban restaurant as it is at Est next door...

Taverna Agora, 6101 Glenwood Ave., opened mid-month with dinner service starting at 4 p.m. and continuing until 2 in the morning. Potential customers have tried to convince Chef Pete Dalitsouris, who also runs the Carolina Ale House and Papa Lou's, to serve lunch. Chef Pete retorts that true Greek food, which is served at the taverna, takes time to prepare; lunch would be to rushed, he says. Menu items include moussaka and garides ke midia fournou (shellfish baked in a ceramic pot with a roasted garlic tomato sauce over a bed of rice)--certainly choices which need time to temper.

Durham
Rick Sordahl , chef at the Fairview Restaurant, 3001 Cameron Blvd., has a new last-of-summer menu featuring fennel and Szechwan pepper-crusted ahi with a coriander-beet emulsion, vegetable napoleon with Celebrity Farms cheese, and pan-roasted organic chicken breast with lobster risotto. On Sept. 10 at 7 p.m., Sordahl will be presenting a dinner selecting from some late-summer favorites to be matched with a winemaker, to be announced later in the month. For more information, call 493-6699...

Newly opened China House, 3808 Guess Rd., promises to offer "Durham's most authentic, reasonably price, traditional Chinese food." The restaurant features homemade Chinese soup noodles and a 10-page menu with several variations of duck, including Mongolian style and crunchy duck breast with vegetables. What might be an interesting selling point is that the chef was trained in China and has been known to take requests for certain traditional Chinese dishes not currently on his menu...

Giorgio's Hospitality Group, which includes the restaurants Parizade, Vin Rouge, George's GarageandSpice Street, began offering earlier this month what they call "garden and terrace parties" each Sunday evening beginning at 5 or so. These parties, which are rotated between the restaurants, feature live outdoor music and grilled specialties, allowing patrons to enjoy the last embers of summer until Sept. 14.

Chapel Hill
After years of begging, the customers of A Southern Season will finally see their prayers answered. Mid-September, the unveiling of a brand new state-of-the-art cooking school will officially open for culinary antics, inside the store's new location at University Mall. The school will offer a full array of cooking technique and wine appreciation classes given by celebrated food notables from far and wide. The class schedule kicks off with Chapel Hill's very own Mama Dip (Mildred Council), who will be the opening demonstrator on Sept. 25. For more information on scheduled events and upcoming plans go to www.southernseason.com...

Lucy's Restaurant, 114 Henderson St., is serving up a brand new menu, with a handful of old favorites kept on for good measure. It started when Michael Alfieri arrived fresh from the West Coast to take over the kitchen nearly a month ago. Alfieri calls his labor now "bringing Lucy's to the next notch" by introducing dishes made from scratch...

Margaret's Cantina, 1129 Weaver Dairy Road, is extending its "Back to School" buy an entree at half-price special, Monday-Thursday, through Sept. 11. Diners can select an entree from Margaret's new menu, such as matambre, an Argentinean specialty of stuffed, rolled steak filled with vegetables, egg and mild chilies, or shrimp in a chipotle sauce, and more. Keep up with Margaret's moving menu by signing up for her e-newsletter at www.margaretscantina.com. EndBlock

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