Ben Smith


29Chef Ben Smith was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. Upon high school graduation, he spent three years working in restaurants before deciding to attend the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. He served his externship at the Sherman House Hotel in San Francisco, and eagerly returned there after graduation to work for Jeremiah Tower at Stars Restaurant from 1986 to 1989. Living in San Francisco and working for Jeremiah Tower expanded his awareness of Asian ingredients and cooking techniques and piqued his desire to learn more.

In 1989, Chef Smith embarked on a six-month solo tour of the South Pacific with stops in Tahiti, New Caledonia, New Zealand, and Australia. After a year spent managing a catering kitchen back in Memphis, he accepted a job offer in Hawaii, where he worked for two and a half years at the Lodge at Koele in Lanai. This job opened his eyes to the vast bounty of the Pacific Region, and he was exposed to a greater variety of seafood than ever before. It was in Hawaii where he first began to form his concept for Tsunami Restaurant.

Once back in Memphis he took a series of sous-chef and executive chef positions to reestablish himself in the local market and test his ideas for his future restaurant. He was pleased to discover that Memphis was hungry for the Tsunami Restaurant concept.

Smith opened Tsunami in 1998. Two months after its opening in July 1998, it was voted Best New Restaurant by Memphis magazine. Since that time it has maintained one of the top three spots in the categories of “Best Seafood” and “Most Creative Menu” in Memphis magazine’s readers’ poll every year.

Chef Smith lives in Memphis with his artist wife Colleen, their sons Brendan and Ian and daughter Ayden.