Homecomin’ has reopened in Disney Springs today, and they’re serving up heaping helpings of comfort foods with a side of Southern hospitality — along with some signature moonshine cocktails to wash it all down with.
And while we knew Chef Art Smith would be at the reopening of his restaurant today (and to check up on the progress of his new Shine Bar + Social outdoor patio bar!), we got the chance to sit and visit with him!
Before Chef Art Smith welcomed everyone home to his restaurant, he sat down with us at his favorite table on the newly enclosed patio for an exclusive interview. Btw, he was rockin’ a super-cute Chicken Print Face Mask that Homecomin’ is now selling!
Even though Homecomin’ looks a little different these days (with their new Shine Bar seating and safety measures they’ve implemented), the always warm and inviting Chef Art Smith has undergone a major transformation himself. He said he’s really used this time to focus on getting healthy, and believe it or not, he’s lost over 80 pounds!
Chef Art (who’s turning 60 this year) said even though the gyms have been closed, Lucas Cancelier, a close friend who’s a personal trainer has helped him get into shape at home during the shutdown. Lucas was also at the restaurant today and stopped by to pose for a quick pic!
As for his restaurant’s new project, Shine Bar + Social, Art told us the outdoor space has been in the works for over a year. Basically, once they realized they would be enclosing their former outdoor seating area, they knew they would need to come up with a replacement so folks could sit outside and listen to music while sippin’ on moonshine!
He told us construction started on Shine Bar + Social about two months ago and he’s really pleased with its progress. When it opens, guests will be able to order off the Homecomin’ menu and there might even be a few new moonshine cocktails!
Once we got to talking about how much we LOVE Homecomin’s drinks, Art spilled a few family secrets about his ancestors! He told us that his Shine Bar is an homage to his great grandfather who was a moonshiner! Art chuckled when he told us his great-grandpa “drank more than he sold” and held up his phone to show us this sepia tone photo of the moonshine slinger himself!
In addition to running moonshine, baking also runs in Art’s family. Art’s great grandmother was known for making a special 12 layer chocolate cake sometimes called Smith Island Cake. It’s a popular item at church suppers in the South and Art would love to bring it to Homecomin’s menu someday!
Due to his recent weight loss, Art also talked about bringing a few healthier options to the menu, although he assures us they’ll still be VERY comforting! If they taste even half as good as his Grilled Chicken Tenders, we’ll be stoked to give them a try!
When we asked Art what his favorite item on Homecomin’s menu was, he told us Fried Catfish and Slaw are his go-to items! In fact, the original concept for the restaurant was called Fish Camp!
He told us Disney Springs already had a lot of fish joints by the time he was working on coming to Disney World, and the name and concept for his restaurant eventually evolved into Homecomin’ to represent his return to his home state of Florida!
Art also told us he’s been really impressed by how Disney has been handling all these recent changes and said everything at Disney Springs is being done very responsibly and professionally.
Homecomin’ is also following all health and safety guidelines and have taken every precaution to ensure folks can enjoy a good dose of southern comfort food again. They’ve spaced out tables, installed plexiglass shields between booths, and increased their sanitation practices to name just a few new practices they’ve implemented since reopening.
While talking about our current situation, Art said, “When things are tough, things are rough, people want comfort” following with, “Everyone has gone through something that frightened them”. He’s thankful to have his restaurant open again so he can cook for people and “serve Mac and cheese until the cows come home!” We find this to be very reassuring since his mac and cheese is some of the best we’ve ever had!
Reservations for Homecomin’ blew out the door as soon as the restaurant announced it was reopening today and Art says they’ve been able to bring back about 90% of the staff!
If you can’t make it down to Disney World right away to enjoy some of Chef Art Smith’s Southern comfort food, you can always tune in to his cooking show which he’s filming in his kitchen at home! It’s a project he’s become deeply passionate about since it’s a way he can connect with his fans all over the world right now! Check it out at @thechefartsmith on Instagram Live!
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Let us know if you’ll be making plans to eat at Chef Art Smith’s Homecomin’ now that it’s open in the comments below!