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CEF Stories: SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza Chef Michael Smith

Jul 17, 2015 09:11AM ● By Dia

Michael Smith’s degree from the University of Southern Colorado may have been in psychology, but the culinary arts are where he is most adept. Most chefs and restaurateurs might actually agree, that a degree in psychology is the perfect foundation for a career in the culinary business.  Following college, Smith went to work at Chateau Pyranees in Denver, where he studied and worked under Chef Jean-Pierre Lelievre and, later, Chef George Mavrothalassitis (now in Hawaii). In 1985 he traveled to Nice and Cassis in the south of France, cooking and learning, and was struck with the French approach of artisanal products and fresh, local ingredients.

It was a lesson he carried back to the U.S. when he went to Chicago in 1987 to work as Sous Chef at the late Charlie Trotter's restaurant. Two years later he returned to Nice to be the Executive Chef at L'Albion. Upon his eventual return to Chicago in 1991, he worked as Co-Chef at Carlos' in Highland Park and then Executive Chef at Gordon until 1994. Moving on to Kansas City, he took over The American Restaurant and while there, Smith won the James Beard Award for Best Chef, Midwest, 1999. Kansas City had never before had a chef so honored. The James Beard Awards were not through however … Smith’s restaurant, Forty Sardines won Best Restaurant Design in 2002.

Michael is chef/owner of a duo of restaurants under one roof at 1900 Main Street in Kansas City's Crossroads Art District.  He is also Executive chef of SPIN! Neapolitan Pizza a fast casual concept with a dozen locations across the country.

The eponymous Michael Smith is the epitome of fine dining and high class with a 650+ label Wine Spectator awarded cellar, while Extra Virgin next door is a trendy Mediterranean tapas restaurant with one of the city's coolest al fresco dining areas and a spectacular bar that complements the adventurous menu. SPIN! is also winning awards for its chef-inspired pizza and extensive, but reasonable wine list.

Smith himself is still winning awards, with a 2011 Pitch Magazine Readers Choice "Best Chef Kansas City" and three years in a row, KC Magazine "Best Chef" 2012, 2013 and 2014. He was also recently honored with the State of Missouri Division of Tourism's Spotlight Award for being the individual contributing most to tourism in Kansas City and the MenuMasters 2014 Chef Innovator by Nation's Restaurant News (presented at The Drake in Chicago).

Michael not only owns, operates and consults for some of Kansas City's best restaurants, he has a busy schedule of guest chef appearances around the country and abroad. Michael is also sought after by the media as an industry spokesperson and has appeared on Food Network, Esquire TV, Bravo and The Cooking Channel as well as innumerable appearances on local network TV and talk radio. His recipes have appeared in The Robb Report, Wine Spectator, Gourmet, Bon Appetit and Spirit in-flight magazine.

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