Bill Smith Crook's Corner
At Crook’s Corner on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill, NC, the morning soundtrack is a little radio above prep tables and the chatting of cooks as they fill the restaurant. There are deliveries, phones occasionally ringing, and morning greetings, including one in Spanish you’ll hear in this episode. Bill Smith -- the James Beard nominated chef of a James Beard America’s Classic Restaurant, author, music aficionado, and someone who sees something he doesn’t agree with and does something about it -- yeah, that Bill Smith whose 300 rock n’ roll T-shirts are in the Southern Folklife collection at the University of North Carolina, he made me a pot of coffee and invited me to sit in the dining room for a chat amid the morning work. We’d celebrated him the night before at Terra Vita Food & Drink Festival’s Tribute Dinner (which sold out by the way), and so we’d supped on pickled shrimp, collard soup, tomato gravy, and so much more, dishes made by chefs from across the region who cooked to pay tribute to him. Meet Bill, and you’ll soon understand people like him for much more than his iconic pimento cheese, honeysuckle sorbet, or those soft shell crabs. He’s a humble and down-to-earth bad ass whose heart is so kind. At one point during this chat, I had to stop the interview to compose myself after he said his kitchen wasn’t fun anymore. I would hate this for any chef, but knowing how Bill loves his work, it made me cry.