Homecoming: Florida Kitchen and Southern Shine will showcase the cuisine of Chef Smith, who was born and reared in the town of Jasper, Fla., on the Florida-Georgia border. After 25 years of preparing award-winning meals for celebrities and heads of state and appearing on television, he is making Florida his home once again.
With farm-to-fork cuisine that showcases the bounty of Florida, and design inspired by turn-of-the century Florida architecture of the late 1800s, Homecoming will feature traditional Southern favorites with sophisticated, chef-inspired creations. The 6,000-square-foot, 200-seat restaurant “is where Florida heritage meets New Southern cuisine,” explains Smith.
“I couldn’t be happier about coming back to Florida and Walt Disney World Resort,” he continues. “To be able to prepare the food I love in the place where I have so many special memories is a dream come true.” Smith is a sixth generation Floridian, and his family still raises cattle, pecans and heirloom vegetables on their ancestral farm.
Smith says he is especially pleased with the restaurant’s Disney Springs connection, as he recalls summertime gatherings at the springs in the Northern part of Florida, casual get-togethers known as “homecomings” when family and friends gathered to share Southern specialties, enjoy homemade desserts and maybe sip a hand-crafted cocktail under the shade of live oak trees.
“Once we heard the story of his passion for Florida and his vision for the restaurant, we knew that it was a perfect match” said George Kalogridis, president of Walt Disney World Resort. “We’re thrilled to welcome Chef Art back to the state and share his spirit of Homecoming with our guests from around the world.”
“The menu is a big part of my ongoing homage to Florida’s bygone era,” explains Smith. “We will proudly and prominently support the Fresh from Florida campaign and the vast majority of our seafood, produce, poultry and beef will be from local farms, ranches or fisheries.”
The “rustic-chic” restaurant has a glass-walled show kitchen and the Southern Shinebar that celebrates an era where characters might have created some homegrown spirits on their homesteads just beyond the springs. The bar will feature whimsical cocktails, punches and coolers, including some made with now-legal variations of moonshine.
Smith’s expertise is all over the menu from Southern favorites like homemade pimento cheese, Church Lady deviled eggs, low country shrimp and grits, kale salad with Sweet Grass Dairy cheese and spiced pecans and a grilled Blackstrap pork chop with sawmill gravy. “Each dish has a little Florida twist and makes guests feel like they’re on the back porch with me for every meal,” says Smith.
Desserts will be a specialty, with cakes, pies and delectable sweets made daily and shipped from a bakery in Hamilton County, including the restaurant’s signature Mockingbird Cake. “Southern women, using delicious ingredients and love, are the world’s best bakers,” explains Art.
Disney Springs is a one-of-a-kind Disney experience, treating guests by day and night to great dining, shopping and entertainment amid beautiful open-air promenades, flowing springs and waterfront charm. With an air of sophisticated grace and design that harkens to Florida’s waterfront towns at the turn-of-the-century, Disney Springs is home to four distinct, outdoor neighborhoods opening in phases: The Landing, Town Center, Marketplace and West Side. When fully completed in 2016, Disney Springs will double the number of shopping, dining and entertainment venues – from the current 70 to approximately 150.