Art Smith's Table Fifty-Two is getting a revamp in the Gold Coast, changes that will even affect that famous fried chicken. Oprah Winfrey's former personal chef will rename the restaurant in January and shift the focus from southern comfort foods. Blue Door Kitchen and Table will be a farm-to-table concept focusing on fresh foods.
"Table Fifty-Two — a gorgeous, elegant space — needed to be more family friendly, affordable and closer to the farm," Smith emailed. "We are taking Table back to the farm."
Chicago magazine was the first to report the change. Smith said the restaurant will continue to operate through the holidays, with renovations taking place in January. Those changes will update the space and make it more environmentally friendly, saying his summer visit to Expo Milano inspired him. Table Fifty-Two is housed in the coachhouse of the Biggs Mansion on Elm and Dearborn—a structure that predates the Great Chicago Fire—and Smith wants to modernize the space and bring it into the 21st Century.
As for that precious fried chicken, guests will still find it on the menu, but keeping with the restaurant's new focus on staying fresher and friendlier to the environment, staff will now use free-range chicken in the recipe. Smith has used Amish Midwestern chicken at Table Fifty-Two. He said he recently catered a fundraiser held by Winfrey benefiting children with autism and used free-range chicken, frying them in duck fat, and loved the results. He's looking forward to partnering with a chicken farmer.
Blue Door Farm refers to an Indiana farm once owned by Smith's former employer, Winfrey. The affiliated Blue Door Farm Stand has remained closed since earlier this year to relocate to 2010 N. Halsted St., but have suffered unforeseen delays. They're all part of the same group as Chicago Q (Ideology Entertainment), and Smith recently accepted the post as Chicago Q's pitmaster.