Hello Canada: Michael Smith
Homemade TV Chef Michael Smith Talks About the Joys of Staying In and Cooking for Family and Friends
by Tania Haas
Published in Hello! Canada November 2011
Cooking star Michael Smith may have been born an American, but it’s as a Canadian that he’s made his name. The longtime Maritime resident, 45, has attracted a worldwide following with his hit series Chef at Home, Chef Abroad, Chef at Large and The Inn Chef, which now air in 100 countries. And the New York native has used this fame to sing the praises of his adopted country – he says that when he moved to Prince Edward Island while in his 20s, it “felt like coming home” – and to spread the gospel of locally-grown food.
So perhaps it’s no surprise that the personable chef’s new web series, Chef Michael’s Kitchen, is filmed as close to home as it gets: in his own kitchen, which looks out over the picturesque river and rolling fields of Fortune, P.E.I. And his new cookbook, Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen: 100 of My Favourite Easy Recipes, shares all the delicious dishes that he produces there.
For Michael, the line between work and play is often blurred. In the same kitchen where he instructs viewers on how to whip up simple, sophisticated dishes, his son Gabriel, 10, plays sous-chef for family meals. His partner, singer and songwriter Chastity Fizzard, 35, and her daughter Ariella, 3 – who, according to Michael, is quite a “firecracker” – also lend a hand. Michael met Chastity during the production of Chef at Home; one of her songs played during the title credits. They reconnected years later, after he was separated from Gabriel’s mother, and this time sparks flew. “We’ll get married one of these days,” says Michael. “We hope to have more children very soon.”
The chef’s former partner, Rachel Leslie, lives just a few minutes away. She and Michael remain close friends, raising their son as amicable exes.
“We’ve been complemented over and over again for how graciously we have parted; no drama whatsoever,” he reflects. “I’m proud of that. I built her a farmhouse down the road. We’re best friends.”
That’s not all that Michael has to be grateful for these days. Not only is his family life harmonious, but he remains deeply in love with the Canadian island that’s been his home for the past two decades. Although he trained with world-class chefs in Michelin-starred European kitchens, Michael maintains that it’s the local fisherman and artisans that he’s worked with over the years who have made him the cook he is.
“P.E.I.’s culture had such a profound impact on me as a person and chef at a formative stage of my life,” he says. As such, Michael takes great pride in knowing the provenance of his ingredients and in banishing processed foods from his pantry completely.
“Growing up, my mum cooked us real food,” the chef says. “Now we live in a culture where so many of us are so busy that we have convinced ourselves that we don’t have time to eat right. I don’t agree. Make the time. That’s what life is all about. Food is a wonderful way to do great, positive things for our families, for our kids, to help them be their best.”
In Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen: 100 of My Favourite Recipes, the bestselling cookbook author makes an impassioned plea for Canadians to return to the kitchen. We may live in busy times, but there’s nothing quite like home-cooked food, and the Maritime chef’s delicious dishes drive home that fact. Simple, nourishing comfort food is what he cooks for his own family and friends. From the Honey Mustard Barbecue Baked Baby Back Ribs, to the Italian Style Meatloaf with Sundried Tomatoes, Black Olives, Oregano and Parmesan, to the caramel milk chocolate mousse – the recipes will feed both the body and the soul.
For excerpts from the cookbook, download PDF below