Star Chefs Making a Difference: Art Smith on Childhood Obesity

Art Smith.
Chefs Art Smith and Michelle Bernstein. Photo © Kipling Swehla.

The Chef: Art Smith

The Cause: Common Threads

After Oprah Winfrey asked my partner, artist Jesus Salgueiro, and me to cook in New York for families who had been affected by 9/11, we began to think about ways to bring people together. That's how we came to found Common Threads in a church basement in Chicago. Our chef-instructors teach kids basic kitchen skills, cooking techniques and the importance of fresh, healthy ingredients—to connect with their bodies, their neighbors and their world in a healthy way. We're now in 22 locations, including Miami, thanks to my angel, chef Michelle Bernstein (with me in the photo above). Philanthropist Charles Weingarten has given us more than $1 million.

When I first met Charles, he was with his two-year-old daughter, Lily, a very picky eater. I sat down with her and picked up a piece of broccoli and said, "Lily, this is delicious." And I started eating it. She picked it up and started eating it, too. All this incredible support came from him, just for teaching that child how to eat a piece of broccoli—the broccoli that taught thousands of children how to cook!

As simplistic as it may sound, I believe that a little cooking class can cure a lot of ills. I don't believe there are angry people, just hungry people.

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