Chef News

Steven "Chops" Smith Dishes on the Weirdest Thing He Ever Ate (It Smells Bad) and Why He Loves Japanese Cuisine

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Everyone calls Steven Smith "Chops" because of his signature 70's-era sideburns. But there's something about this light-hearted, high-energy guy that says "elf" not "Elvis" to me. He's got a twinkle, and the enthusiasm bubbling up from his kitchen staff (usually a top-down situation) is downright infectious. Everyone seems genuinely excited to be part of Top Chef Brian Malarkey's Searsucker and none more so than Smith.

Although he began working in restaurants at an early age (busing, bartending and serving at Eddie's Grill on 7th Street in high school and junior college), the restaurant business was a means to an end at the time. Smith's passion was Motocross, and he worked the California circuit until a string of accidents made him re-think the sport. By 2000, he knew he wanted to go to culinary school and enrolled at SCI, where he graduated with honors. His first professional stint at Furio (under Jager Griffin) was followed by a gig as sous chef at Different Pointe of View, where he was mentored by Ivan Flowers. When Flowers left to open his own spot in Sedona, Smith followed, later moving to Luc's (which he calls a "shit show"), then Sushi Roku "for a quick, hot minute," then St. Francis for 7 months and finally Noca, where he worked with Chris Curtiss for a year.

He and a pack of close friends spent nearly two years trying to open Monroe's Social House, which never came to fruition. Meanwhile, Smith was making ends meet one way or another, working for Michael DeMaria, jumping back to Noca and consulting for Kelly's at Southbridge. He's a pickle-whisperer who brings his culinary chops and his playful side together at Searsucker.

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Nikki Buchanan