It’s hard to describe entrepreneur B. Smith with simply one word because she has worn many hats during her career.
You can call her a fashion model, chef, restaurateur, author and television host. But more than anything, you can call her a shining example of success that has done everything with style, grace and an approachable personality.
Smith was fresh off making an appearance at Dorsey High School on September 18 where she helped unveil the school’s new culinary arts building and did a cooking exhibition on behalf of Lawry’s “Cooking Up Culture,” a program that celebrates the diverse influences on American cooking.
“We try to visit schools with children of color to encourage them in their career choices and let them see a role model in the business while still spreading the word about our product,” Smith said.
It seemed like a perfect fit that she would be Lawry’s national spokeswoman having grown up on their seasoning salt since she was a child cooking with her mom in western Pennsylvania.
The program has taken her to various cities and schools around the country to promote various cultural dishes. She was in Detroit in February for Black History Month and at Dorsey she cooked up Mexican dishes in honor on National Hispanic-American Heritage Month.
She had a special connection to the school via its alumni president Steve Bagby, who served as a bartender in her first restaurant and encouraged her to come to Dorsey. But unlike most celebrities who make special appearances, there appeared to be a genuine love and care behind Smith’s words as if she herself was directly involved with the project.
“This was important because the folks here have been so into the kids and trying to steer them into the right path with a program like the culinary arts program,” she said, “If I had gone to a high school with a program like this, it would have saved me a lot of trouble in my life because I would have gotten to where I was a lot faster.”
Instead of being taught in school, her love of cooking started at home with her mom and grandmother cooking various meals for friends and family.
“I grew up with great food. My mom cooked great, flavorful food and I love being in the kitchen with her, helping her and learning from her,” Smith said.
During her high school years, she formed her own home economics club but had no idea of pursuing a career in culinary arts because she had little information on it. This is why she is educating the kids (and adults) on the numerous ways to participate in this field.
“Everybody can’t play sports or sing. You can cook food, write about it, photograph it, or be a food stylist,” she said, “If I can do it, you can do it.”
Although Smith was originally track to be a model, having moved to New York to enter modeling school, she never lost sight of cooking which helped her get acquainted to her new surroundings.
“One way to make friends is to invite folks to dinner,” she said.
Eventually after modeling, she embarked on her pioneering career, becoming the first Black female to host her own lifestyle show (“B. Smith With Style”) and launch a furniture collection (in partnership with Bed Bath & Beyond).
Her three restaurants, located in New York and Washington, have become well-established mainstays for visitors and residents alike and she’s written two books on entertaining guests.
But with all of this and more, she has never lost sight of being able to relate to the everyday people in society. Just from talking to her, one has to be reminded of her accomplishments or else you’ll think you’re talking to a friend who loves what they do.
“I’ve never ever seen her be jealous or envious of someone. I’ve seen her want to give as opposed to get and there is decency to her. She’s abnormal as a celebrity,” said Dan Gasby, Smith’s husband of 17 years.
On second thought, maybe there is a way to describe Smith in a word or two: Authentic and accessible.
Just as she enriched the lives of the students at Dorsey, she inspires others to live elegantly without breaking the bank for it and inspiring them to pursue their respective dreams.
For Smith, it’s not about being having the perfect design, the perfect meal or the perfect life, it’s about finding your passion, sharing it with everyone and – as she says at the end of each episode of her show – doing it with style.