Moving Forward Toward Success… B. Smith & Dan Gasby
by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud
As we prepare meals for loved ones and beautify our surroundings this Thanksgiving holiday, it is the perfect time to check in with culinary and home décor guru B. Smith. Along with her husband, Dan Gasby, the pop culture phenomenon known as B. Smith owns three successful restaurants — in Washington D.C., New York City’s Times Square and Sag Harbor in the Hamptons — and recently sat down with Black Image to discuss how to make the holiday season special, the presidential election, and why African-Americans must always move “forward.”
What is hot on your menu for Thanksgiving?
B Smith: I always prepare my jerk turkey, and I will continue to serve it during Thanksgiving. I believe in offering a Thanksgiving menu of abundance with great tasting food. I also prepare my corn pudding, which is a tradition, and sometimes I like to add my mother’s fruit cocktail in a Jell-O mold. I like to serve what my friends and family want every Thanksgiving.
What advice do you have for people on how to create the perfect holiday celebration?
B. Smith: It is very important to bring the entire family together, even those you might not see very often. There should be an abundance of food and love for friends and family in the home this Thanksgiving. It is also important to have healthy items at your Thanksgiving dinner for friends and family who might be suffering from ailments like diabetes and heart disease. Try to make sure there is a true balance at your Thanksgiving buffet.
Dan, what is your involvement with building your wife’s brand and the business empire?
Gasby: I try to be 100 percent supportive of B., but I realize that when something goes right in the business world no one says anything. But, when something goes wrong people talk directly to my wife. For example: If President Barak Obama wins a second term in office by a landslide, with 60 percent of the vote, that means that 40 percent of the people didn’t vote for him — which is 180 million people. So, I try to be cognizant of that. And along with operating the business, I deflect problems. I am humbled by the fact that in business, if you step into the public eye, you must be able to take the hits. B. Smith is not only a brand: she’s a human being. More importantly, she’s my wife.
How did you and B. meet?
Gasby: When I was working with King World — selling shows like “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” — I would go to B.’s first restaurant on 47th Street and 8th Avenue in Times Square. I was so impressed by how she created this wonderful oasis restaurant in the middle of the city. It was the first white tablecloth restaurant in the area with no white people in it. The restaurant was very diverse with all different types of people. It represented what President Obama is doing right now — being inclusive, as opposed to what Mitt Romney represents, which is very homogeneous. Plus, I was a good tipper.
B. Smith: Thank God.
How have you made your business partnership and marriage work?
Gasby: We try to make love every morning.
B. Smith: It is important that you work together as a couple and that you are best friends. You have to know when to give each other time off. There has to be a balance. We are together 24/7, and we have to understand the balance that we need. This is important, and romance is very important.
Gasby: (Laughs) I think I am Denzel Washington and when she drinks she knows I am Denzel Washington.
B. Smith: I prefer my own Denzel Washington.
This month, we will know who our President of the United States will be.
Gasby: Let me tell you what we are doing with the B. Smith restaurants. We have a promotion right now, and we are calling it, “The 47% Solution.” So, what we did after the presidential debates, is to charge people $100 for a three course dinner plus pairing wines. We donate 53% of the money to the Democratic Party and to President Obama’s re-election campaign. Our staff, in all of our restaurants, is part of the 47 percent of Americans that Mitt Romney made mention of, and stated that they didn’t count. This is to show how important it is that we see this presidential election through, and make sure that we re-elect President Obama. The bottom line is if you look at Romney’s camp you don’t see any diversity and a man who says he has a binder full of women is totally out of touch — and to think that a woman does not deserve equal pay as a man, when she does the same job, is crazy. Also, I know that no one should have the right to control a woman’s right to choose. And if Romney wins the presidential election, everything people took for granted will be taken away — such as a woman’s right to choose and entitlement programs for people who are trying to better themselves.
What do you think about Michelle Obama’s campaign for good health?
B. Smith: I think it is wonderful. Dan and I have been working with children in the Washington, D.C., area and the school district on good health practices. The children are our future, and we are encouraging the schools to plant gardens and grow food that the children can eat and understand. I also suggest that families also take the initiative to grow a garden in their yards or an herb garden in their apartments if they don’t have backyards. When children are taught to grow things, they are less likely to use violence or guns to hurt people. They have an appreciation for life.
Tell us about your products in Bed, Bath & Beyond.
B. Smith: We actually have products for every room in the house. We have bedding and bath products, and it’s all about great presentations. There is also B. Smith serving ware, and we continue to grow the brand. It’s not easy, but we work very hard at what we do and it’s working for us.
How important is it to beautify the home?
Gasby: You have to understand your environment has to be neat and clean, and adding flowers and beauty is the absence of violence. When things in your home are not pretty and neat, it is violent and it affects the soul. If the environment is clean, people will keep it clean. Beauty is the absence of violence.
Image is very important. Going back to the presidential campaign, what do you think happened with President Obama in his first debate with Romney?
Gasby: I know what happened and either I am right or totally wrong. He must have been told by his advisers to avoid coming across angry or defensive, and to stay cool during his first debate. That advice was the worst thing in the world to give President Obama.
What advice would you give to black men?
Gasby: My advice to black men is that the most important thing in America is for them to respect their children’s mother and to take care of their children.
B., what are your beauty secrets?
B. Smith: Well, I go to the health club and I work out, and I like to run on the beach not far from my restaurant in the Hamptons. We make sure we are in constant movement.
Gasby: Barbara is also a very disciplined eater. She doesn’t eat salt, and rarely drinks caffeine. She puts olive oil on her skin.
B. Smith Olive Oil?
B. Smith: Yes, of course. I grew up with olive oil on my skin and hair. My mom would warm it up and put it into my hair. Both of my parents have passed, but I am really proud and I know they are watching me.