Trust a svelte chef? Absolutely, says "Top Chef" master and celebrity chef Art Smith. Just because Smith dropped 120 pounds and wears neon sneakers so he's ready to run on a moment's notice doesn't mean he's forsaken fried chicken or any other deliciousness. This son of the South talks with U.S. News about his farming roots, the lifestyle that made him sick and his current crusade for health, which calls for a balanced approach to living with a focus on eating together with loved ones. "Health tastes good," Smith says. By that he means that simple, unfussy food—a plain, Granny Smith apple, for example—can be profoundly good in taste and consequence. Once you know what vitality feels like, you do all you can to hold onto it, he says.
Food connects and nourishes people, Smith explains. And he translates his passion to do both with a variety of efforts: a new chain of quick, casual restaurants called LYFE Kitchen; a nonprofit called Common Threads that teaches children about cultures through food and art; several cookbooks (his latest, "Healthy Comfort," comes out in May); and his restaurants, which include Art and Soul in Washington, D.C., TABLE Fifty-Two in Chicago and Southern Art and Bourbon Bar in Atlanta.