Voted “Restaurateur of the Year” in 2010 by Memphis Restaurant Association, Ben Smith is the owner and executive chef of the award-winning restaurant Tsunami. Born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, Chef Smith is well known for an innovative culinary style influenced by his extensive travels in the Pacific Rim. After graduating from the Culinary Institute of America in 1986, he began his career in San Francisco working at Stars Restaurant under celebrity chef Jeremiah Tower (now of Tavern on the Green). Smith then traveled and worked his way across the Pacific, including stops in Tahiti, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Australia, and finally Hawaii, concluding his tour in the kitchen of the five-star Lodge at Koele on the island of Lanai.
Returning home to Memphis in 1994, Smith was ready and able to draw on his globetrotting experiences in his formation of an original restaurant concept: Pacific Rim cuisine suffused with a French influence, as well his own adventurous ethos and minimalist aesthetic. The son of local art legend Dolph Smith, Chef Smith inherited his own artistic sensibility that is revealed in his culinary minimalism, a style that eschews pretension and emphasizes focused flavors via the meticulous selection of ingredients.
After opening to much acclaim in 1998, Tsunami has continued to gain recognition and garner praise, making Smith one of the select few in the region who can boast of being both a pioneer of Memphis’ now thriving culinary scene and a current contributor to its growing reputation for world class cuisine. In its inaugural year, Tsunami was voted Best New Restaurant and has been included in the Best Seafood category in Memphis Magazine and Memphis Flyer reader polls every year since its inception, with other categories of recognition including Best Restaurant, Best Chef, and Most Creative Menu. In addition to running his own restaurant, the industrious chef has also found time to pen the Tsunami Cookbook, published in 2005, and serve as a full-time Chef Instructor at L’Ecole Culinaire from 2010 to 2012.