Erin Smith

Erin Smith


Chef and Owner of Feges BBQ


Very early in my career, I worked for a chef named Liz Benno. She taught me how to navigate in a man's world and command the respect I deserve in the kitchen. I didn’t realize how important that lesson would be at the time but it’s certainly helped me get to where I am today.


EXPERIENCE
EDUCATION
My internship at Per Se has had the most positive impact on my career. I learned what it meant to be a culinary professional. I learned to respect the kitchen, the equipment, our products, and the position. It taught me lessons about hard work and professionalism which I still carry with me today at Feges BBQ and hope to instill in our staff.
I found myself working unrealistically hard and long to prove myself early in my career. It never left me feeling satisfied and created an isolating lifestyle. I’ve since learned to unapologetically set boundaries. Owning my own business and starting a family has intensified the need for those boundaries to stay intact. I want to set a good example for our staff and for them to know their work/life balance is important to us and should be important to them.
We run a bbq restaurant but require zero bbq experience or skills when hiring. Through trial and error, we’ve found that attitude and commitment are the most important traits to hire for. Technical skills we can teach you, but commitment and attitude come from within and are essential to your success at our restaurant and beyond.
Our team is our family and we treat them as such. We truly want everyone to feel supported emotionally, fulfilled professionally, and fairly compensated. We do a lot outside of work with our team to maintain the sense of family and build a passion for Feges BBQ and the bbq community at large. We also talk to them regularly about their lives outside the kitchen.
When I think about the culinary industry when I started cooking 15 years ago and where it is today -- it’s clearly evolving. Cooks are evolving, business structures are evolving, consumers are evolving, and more importantly, our expectations of culinary professionals are evolving. We’ve started to want work/life balance for the men and women cooking our food. We want them to have access to healthcare and earn a living wage. We care about how the women in restaurants are treated and the opportunities that are available to them. “We” care about cooks. “We” didn’t used to. (“We” referring to the media, general public, and diners.)
I find inspiration through people. All sorts of people. Sometimes it’s an opportunity to cook with a chef I’ve admired from afar and sometimes inspiration comes from a cook in our kitchen. Traveling also helps. There is so much beauty and good in this world and its so important to go out there and find it. Food brings people together and that inspires me.
I love cooking with other chefs and take advantage of any opportunity to do so. I learn something every time I cook outside my kitchen and my comfort. Chefs are some of the most generous people with their time and knowledge. I’m always asking for advice and seeking help whenever it's offered.

Disclaimer: Individuals featured in the Inspirational Career Timelines section have been nominated by peers, colleagues and/or other members of the hospitality industry. It is to the best of our knowledge that each individual has demonstrated leadership and acted as a positive role model for others.


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James Beard Award