Some chefs are celebrities; some are chefs for celebrities; and a few, like gay chef Charles Arthur “Art” Smith, are both. Although Smith, a specialist in the American Southern culinary tradition, fell into cooking largely by accident, he has prepared meals for democratically-elected heads of state and royalty alike, and served as Oprah Winfrey’s personal chef. His charity resume is also impressive: Two stints on the competitive reality TV show Top Chef Masters where all prize money is donated; outreach to combat homophobia in Mississippi; and a nonprofit called Common Threads that teaches children from low-income families how to cook healthy meals. He has been honored with two James Beard awards and published three cookbooks.
Olney, whose nouvelle cuisine French food writing helped prepare the world for the Slow Food movement with recipes like chicken with 40 cloves of garlic, began his career as an American painter living in France. He fell in love with the herb-filled fields of Provence and set about composing a lyrical cookbook of local recipes that emphasized freshness and “simplicity,” which to him referred more to highlighting individual flavors and less to the difficulty level of the techniques involved. The French Menu Cookbook was the beginning of his fame in the English-speaking world; The Good Cook, a 28-volume series Olney edited on culinary basics commissioned by Time-Life Books, has been translated into twelve languages. He was also a wine taster who was honored with requests to write about two of France’s most iconic varieties: Chateau d’Yquem and the Domaine de la Romanee Conti.