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Daniel E. Smith, C.E.C.

All about Chef Dan

Chef Dan Smith grew up in Woodland Valley, a small town in the Catskills down in Ulster County. He has lived in the Capital Region since 1997, when he took the job of Executive Chef at Nicole's Bistro in downtown Albany. He moved to Clarksville in 2007. Since the retirement of the owner and the subsequent sale of the Bistro, Smith has been scheming of ways to deepen the roots he has put down in rural Albany County and put the values he has cultivated over the years into further action. It is hoped that Jake Moon Restaurant and Cafe will serve as a focal point and meeting place for the local community, while drawing people from farther away to come and appreciate the beauty and unique worth of Clarksville and the wider hilltown community. Jake Moon is a place where dollars spent on great food are passed back to local farmers, helping to keep farming a viable economic activity right here in the Greater Capital Region.

Smith began his culinary career serving in the U.S. Army. While stationed in Europe, he received a degree in restaurant management and worked closely with the European chapter of the American Culinary Federation (ACF). After graduating from the La Varenne Ecole de Cuisine, Paris, Smith traveled extensively, building his skills at restaurants in France and Germany. He was selected to represent the ACF European chapter in the 1980 Culinary Olympics, Frankfurt, capturing--with his team--a Bronze Medal.

Upon returning from Europe, Smith worked with the Basque master chef Eugene Bernard, who installed him as executive chef at a renowned Catskills eatery, Rudi's Big Indian. Under Bernard's exacting tutelage, Smith refined his style and built a loyal and enthusiastic following at Rudi's, mostly among weekenders accustomed to the best metro New York fare.

After another successful stint at the Beekman Arms in Rhinebeck (America's oldest continually operating inn) Smith decided to create his own restaurant. The Thymes opened its doors in 1989 in a turn-of-the century building in uptown Kingston once known as the City Hotel. From its conception, The Thymes was dedicated to food that reflected the best of the upstate New York region. "I tried to highlight products indigenous to the Hudson Valley," notes Smith, "with emphasis on locally produced breads, goat cheese, wines, fruits and vegetables." The Thymes was widely considered Ulster County's most refined yet accessible restaurant, and its dining room was a veritable who's who of local notables as well as a getaway for weekenders from Rhinebeck, New Paltz, and Woodstock.

In 1994, Smith opened his second restaurant when his friend and mentor Marc Schlosberg was forced due to illness to sell Rudi's Big Indian. Renaming the restaurant after a Mohawk ancestor, Smith oriented Rudi's toward what he dubbed "Catskill Mountain Cuisine," a blend of locally produced products and inspired recipes from regional amateur cooks "Including my Aunt Gladys's dilly beans," says Smith.

After two decades of hands-on restaurant management, Smith branched out as a consultant. He developed The Spotted Dog, featuring spicy Three-Alarm Chili and other American standards in a faux Victorian firehouse in Mount Tremper, a tiny community with a dramatic mountain backdrop. The restaurant opened in July as an anchor tenant for Catskill Corners (now called The Emerson), a mix of retail stores and the home of the world's largest kaleidoscope.

Smith is a three-time winner of A Taste of the Hudson Valley, a prestigious culinary competition and fundraiser, and was the 1995 winner of a silver medal at the Cuisine Classic, an American Culinary Federation-sanctioned event. He was the food chairman for the Ulster Community College Scholarship Foundation fundraiser and for the 1995 Wildlife Festival in Kingston. For the past eight years, he has been a guest speaker at the Garlic Festival, held annually in Saugerties, New York. More recently, he has been an adjunct instructor at SUNY Cobleskill in the Culinary Arts Department and he has completed a degree in Business Administration and Economics at Empire State College.

The father of two daughters and grandfather of three grandsons, Dan Smith lives in the Heldebergs. On his rare days off, he enjoys gardening, skiing, bicycling, and fitness training.