When we moved to Columbus, everyone was talking about trying to get on the list of Roy’s Ave Supper Club and I was -of course- intrigued. As everybody else, I sent an email to get a spot and then COVID hit.
Earlier this year my husband and I had the opportunity to experience the Supper Club, in February 2023 to be exact. The experience was a tasting menu in a communal, beautiful, and wonderfully cozy space. The food? Balanced. Complex. Layered. Sophisticated. Mindful. Extremely flavorful.
Chef Andrew’s dishes are fresh, innovative and will even make you emotional at times. This article is the third delivery of my “4 Chefs to look out for in Columbus Ohio this 2023” blog series, an effort to spotlight my favorite Chefs in town.
I hope you enjoy.
What’s your name and where are you from?
Andrew Smith, and I'm from the Pacific Northwest, so Portland, Oregon. I moved to Columbus in the summer of 2009.
Do you remember the exact moment you decided to become a Chef?
I don't know if I can remember a specific moment. I think it kind of happened gradually. I did a lot of work with my hands after I graduated high school a lot of construction work too, I just didn't really enjoy it. On the other side, I always loved food so I think it just kind of gradually turned into one of those things where if I didn't do it, I would probably regret it.
I didn't want to regret that decision, and so I went forward with it. Watching Chef Emerald live on the Food Network probably had a little bit to do with it as well, but I don't know for sure. All this made me go to school, I went to the Western Culinary Institute in Portland, Oregon.
What are your thoughts on people not getting a formal education versus people that went to school for it?
I think it's completely fine. I don't think it's necessary. Back when I first started out, a lot of people were looking for that, and as things have progressed, they're just looking for someone that has the right experience. You can learn more about what you want just sitting and talking to somebody than you can looking at their resume. I mean, that's just my opinion.
I would suggest working a year in the type of kitchen that you think you want to work in, seeing if you like it first before you go spend your money on culinary school, because it can be glorified and look really amazing and you can go, and then you finish, and then you get into a real kitchen and you're will think maybe that is something you didn’t even love.
My first food-related job was in a deli at a grocery store and then a little Italian restaurant in Portland. I remember it was a farm to table experience. We worked a lot with local farmers and had a set menu, but then we did a lot of specials based on local produce, which is very abundant in the Northwest. It was kind of amazing.
When I moved to Columbus I got a job at The Rossi in the Short North, I was there from 2010 until around 2015.
When it comes to either a dish or an ingredient, is there something you completely love to work with? Or maybe some you do not like to prepare?
There aren't a lot of foods that I dislike. There are some things that I am probably not willing to try, like a fertilized egg that still has a chicken inside.
As far as ingredients that I love to work with and probably like most other chefs, I want to see what's fresh and local at first. I really try to keep some variety and try everything then.
Every time we do a menu here for the Supper Club is different from month to month, I guess what I’m trying to say is I'm constantly changing things just to kind of keep those creative juices going.
What is your signature dish and what do you love about it?
I've been asked that question a lot, and I also think about it a lot, and to be honest I don't even know if I've ever had a specific dish that is a signature for me. I've had a lot of dishes over the years that I think could stand the test of time on a menu, but I'd have to go back and look at my notes as to what those are. I have this weird mentality where I almost end up hating everything that I make. And I know that sounds weird, but it's like, by the time I'm done serving it, I'm ready to move on to the next thing.
Okay, let me see.
There is one dish that we've done. I would say if I had to pick one dish that we've done the most over the last couple of years, it's nothing super extravagant, but there's this dish called the Potato Cloud that we do, and people seem to like.
I tried this Potato Cloud at one of Andrew’s collaborations with a local bar in Columbus, and as Ross Geller would say: the dish is LIGHTER THAN AIR!
If you could say you only had one source of inspiration to cook or create new dishes and menus, what would that inspiration be?
There are so many forms of inspiration that I go to. I think that the deciding factor on what we end up serving is always: “is this something that I would want to eat?” Because I don't want to make food for other people. I want to make food that I would want to eat, and then I just hope that they like it.
Outside of that, I think social media has provided a way for chefs to communicate with other cooks and learn and be inspired by them in a more natural way, instead of only reading their books or driving across the country or got on a plane to go to their restaurants. There are so many forms of inspiration out there now via technology that it's just so much easier to be inspired by other people.
When it comes to comfort food… Any favorites? Cravings?
I'm very into comfort food. There are a lot of things that I really enjoy; but I would say if I had to pick one dish that was my go to comfort dish, it must be just a smooth, creamy bowl of grits with butter and sharp cheddar cheese. It is a very nostalgic dish for me and comforting at the same time.
Making it, buying it, it doesn't make a difference.
What is the ONE piece of advice you can give a home cook?
I would say the biggest piece of advice I could give to a home cook would be to learn how to properly season food. And one of the things that can really help with that is if you consistently buy the same salt over and over, because not all salt is created equal. Some is denser, some is lighter. So, if you can learn how to season your food and then just buy that salt all the time, you'll be a lot better off.
It goes a long way, and a lot of seasoned cooks don't know how to season, so I would say that would be the most important thing to start with. And then just always a sharp knife.
Knives. Do you rather have a nice and good blade and sharpen it to last long, or buy a cheap one and just change it constantly?
Well, even some cheap knives can last you a very long time. The first knife I ever bought was from Target, and it's to this day, still one of my favorite knives. And I've had it for 16 years.
Now, if you could only eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be? Just one dish, not ingredients.
Tacos. I would say my favorite taco in Columbus that I could eat always is from La Super Torta on Georgesville Road. And it's their Cabeza taco. It's just lime, onion, cabeza, salsa verde, and that's it.
What is the biggest change you have seen in the food and restaurant industry in the past few years?
I do feel like there are a lot of chefs now that are focusing on their culture and where they're from, and that's kind of defining who they are as cooks and chefs. That's amazing because I think to be successful, you need to find what you're good at and what you're passionate about and focus on that. Focusing on culture and what cooks are passionate about and narrowing their mindset on a specific thing that they're good at.
I think that inclusion has become a relevant topic in the food world, and because of it, we're starting to see more interesting food because there were so many people that were left out before and so many other types of restaurants and cuisines that were focused on. And now we're broadening this food horizon so we're able to be inspired more and start to see new things rather than just the same stuff over.
What are you more excited about in 2023? Any specific things or projects that you are excited about?
For us, it's opening our restaurant.
It has been a big blessing being able to be a rogue chef, just kind of travel around and do pop ups and just be on the road a little bit, but it's not conducive to a home life. Our main priority is to be able to open a restaurant and have a work life balance.
Devoney, can you tell us more about the new restaurant?
Absolutely. It's called Isla. The name has a very personal meaning to both of us, and we hope to open sometime in 2023. Our plan is to provide a similar experience that we provide here at the Supper Club but in a different location for a limited number of days per week, we want to do two seatings of twelve each night so that we can feed around 48 people a week. That way we will still be able to do collaborations which we love to do.
Devoney Mills was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio and is Andrew’s business partner and wife.