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Celebrity Chef Art Smith talks helping family with Alzheimer’s disease

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CHICAGO — Celebrity Chef Art Smith, came to fame as Oprah's personal chef, and now, he leads six restaurants across the country, including two in Chicago.

Smith not only cooked for Oprah and the Obama family, but also for his mother, Addie Mae Smith, who died about two years ago from Alzheimer’s disease.

“For all the stuff she taught me, one of the things she taught me was if you got food, you got life,” Smith said. “Because you can always take a little food and make people happy like today, we’re in my restaurant, Blue Door Kitchen and Garden.”

His mother had a profound impact on the chef’s life, as did his grandmother and his Aunt Millie, who was one of television first weather forecasters. All three women, Smith said, developed Alzheimer’s disease in their final years.

“It’s amazing, 6 million people have Alzheimer’s in this country and there 16, 17 million people who take care of people who have Alzheimer’s,” he said.

When Smith became one of those caretakers, he found the connection with his mom was rooted in food, bringing in the chocolate layer cake she taught him to make.

“You have to evolve with the illness,” he said. “I think it extends their life because the interaction that they have people with is important.”

It’s a lesson his mom taught him in the kitchen, that helped during her final days and continues to help Smith in life.

“It retains the memories of them for me,” he said. “If I cook their dish, I keep them alive, and I keep the best part of them alive.”

Smith will be speaking at "Chicago Gourmet" this weekend. For more information visit chicagogourmet.com.

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