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Chef Paul Smith attracts large crowd in for monthly cooking demo at Capitol Market following major award win

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Following a major culinary arts award win in Chicago a couple of weeks ago, Chef Paul Smith is back at the Capitol Market in Charleston again doing what he says he loves most of all– cooking for his community.

James Beard Award winning Chef Paul Smith gathered in a large crowd at the Capitol Market Thursday for his ongoing Let’s Get Cooking demonstrations sponsored by AARP.

Smith hosts the demos annually from May until September on the third Thursday of every month. The organization has been sponsoring the cooking demos at the market for 7 years now.

However, AARP state Director of West Virginia, Gaylene Miller said this Thursday’s cooking demo brought in a particularly large crowd, and she believes it was the result of a culmination of different factors.

“The crowds have grown over the years but by far and away today is our biggest crowd, and I think that it has to do with the fact that it’s West Virginia Day and we have the James Beard Award winner here today with Chef Paul,” Miller said.

Thursday’s demo was also a part of the ten-day FestivALL that’s currently underway in the Capitol City until June 23.

Smith said as grateful as he is to not only be getting to now hold the title of Best Chef: Southeast through the James Beard Foundation but being the only chef in the state to do so, he also said he is just as grateful to return home and assume his role as a prominent chef in the community.

He said throughout his culinary journey with traveling, cooking at prestigious places and with other prominent chefs, and winning accolades such as the James Beard award, nothing compares to this.

“All of the chefs that have taught me, all of the teammates that I have had, all of the travel that I’ve done, and then coming home and to be able to share it with West Virginia, it is amazing,” Smith said to the crowd at Thursday’s cooking demo.

A representative working for U.S. Senator Joe Manchin as he finishes up his time in office, Jim Strawn, presented Smith with a certificate Thursday honoring him for the award and his culinary talents on behalf of Manchin.

Smith said he had received a phone call from Manchin’s wife Gayle following the win. He said she along with the senator he could hear in the background of the call were full of nothing but congratulatory remarks and praises of him and his work.

Smith said that’s what coming home to West Virginia means to him, everyone getting to know and support one another.

“You know, that to me, is West Virginia, not only Senator Manchin, Senator Capito, the mayor, all of you, everybody is accessible, everybody is real,” said Smith.

He said that he didn’t even hesitate to say yes when asked by Capitol Market executives if he would be coming back to do the cooking demos and serve as their Culinary Ambassador following the win, adding that it’s something he loves doing most of all.

And Miller said that she also doesn’t see the prestigious award win changing anything about him or his presence there.

“You know, Chef is just going to be Chef, he’s just really a great guy, always giving back to the community, and I think that’s one of the reasons that he won the award, I mean, he’s a great chef but he’s a great community ambassador as well,” she said.

Miller said Chef Paul uses various ingredients there at the market for the cooking demos to cook up a plethora of unique and delicious dishes.

She said he uses fresh produce and whatever is in season for his recipes. Thursday Smith was making a dish that included fresh tomatoes, corn, and peaches.

The event aims to bring in seasoned home cooks as well as those just starting out to take part in the demonstrations and get some ideas and new recipes they can use at home.

Smith guides attendees through each recipe step-by-step, sharing little tips and tricks along the way.

Miller encourages folks to come out to the next class.

“Let’s get cooking, come out next month and join us!”

The next Let’s Get Cooking demo with Chef Paul Smith will be held Thursday, July 18 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

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