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Article updated: 7/31/2013 6:23 AM

Lean and lovin' it: Taking a taste of Art Smith's new cookbook

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By Don Mauer

Weight loss is rarely an easy journey and celebrity chef Art Smith knows that first hand.

Smith, who rose to fame as Oprah's personal chef, judged on Food Network's "Iron Chef," competed on Bravo's "Top Chef Masters" and runs Chicago's acclaimed Table fifty-two, once tipped the scales at 325 pounds.

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Yet he managed -- over the course of three years -- to shed 120 pounds and manage his Type 2 diabetes. In his new book "Art Smith's Healthy Comfort: How America's Favorite Celebrity Chef Got It Together, Lost Weight, and Reclaimed His Health!" (HarperOne, $27.99) Smith shares his weight loss story and the recipes that helped him stay on his healthier path.

Smith took the bull by the horns and hired a workout guru, Aaron "Az" Ferguson and lost 120 pounds; no easy task for a man who owns five restaurants and works with food, rich sometimes fatty food (think Southern-fried catfish), every day.

At that time, Smith took a close look at sugar: "I have come to the realization that refined sugar is one nasty villain," he writes, pointing out that Americans consume 66 pounds of sugar per person annually.

Throughout the book Smith sprinkles his thoughts on food issues, such as the fat types that he believes are good, like monounsaturated, and those that are bad: saturated and trans fats.

Smith's all about comfort food, food that comfortably and easily helped him lose 120 pounds. Even though Smith writes that: "I make no claims that the recipes on these pages will help you lose any specific number of pounds. Instead, they are full of healthful, whole foods and great flavors ..." he still concludes every recipe with complete nutrition information.

His recipes definitely have a chef's edge: Curried Pork Shoulder with Brown Rice and Mustard Greens or Pork Chops with Cilantro-Pumpkin Pesto provide a near complete meal. If time is your friend, these are worth the effort. Color pictures whet your appetite for and help guide you to perfect finishes of Smith's food. Though keep in mind that some ingredients -- like dried hominy, ground chipotle powder, dried corn husks and precooked white cornmeal -- may not be easy to find.

Smith also shares plenty of vegetable-based recipes for main courses and side dishes, like pickled beets with goat cheese, fava bean, radish and corn salad and roasted cauliflower with pepperoncini.

If you're familiar with Smith's expert palate and hoping he created healthy, weight-losing desserts, this is not the book for you, since he brings just nine dessert recipes to this table. The desserts aren't sugar-free but are low in sugar.

If you're looking for great-tasting food with a healthy Southern accent, and hoping to lose a few pounds, too, y'all may find Smith's book the right fit for you.

Try this recipe: I gave up fried chicken a long time ago, not because I didn't like it, but because of all the fat. Smith's version may not be fried, but his Southern roots and palate served him well when developing this "unfried" take on a deep-fried favorite.

• Don Mauer welcomes questions, comments and recipe makeover requests. Write him at don@theleanwizard.com.

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