Music That Feeds The Soul

Former model B. Smith now has a growing brand that celebrates her love of Southern cuisine, including restaurants, cookbooks, home goods and wine. As part of Tell Me More's series, 'In Your Ear,' B. Smith offers up the playlist she listens to in her kitchen.

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we turn to the occasional feature we call In Your Ear. That's where we ask some of our guests about the music that inspires them. Today, we hear from chef and restaurateur B. Smith. She was the first African-American woman elected to the Culinary Institute of America. Her restaurant in Washington, D.C., B. Smith's, is synonymous with serving food with soul.

We caught up with B. Smith recently in her restaurant in Washington, D.C.'s historic Union Station, where she shared some tips with us about putting some of that sweet Southern feeling into dinner. And so it seemed fitting to know what kind of music feeds her soul in the kitchen.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WITH A CHILD'S HEART")

B. SMITH: This is B. Smith, and this is what's playing in my ear.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WITH A CHILD'S HEART")

SMITH: Depending on how I'm feeling, one of my favorite songs is a Stevie Wonder song. (Singing) With a child's heart, go face the worries of today. With a child's heart...

I know you didn't ask me to sing, but I just had to do that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WITH A CHILD'S HEART")

DIONNE BROMFIELD: (Singing) No need worry. No need to fear. Just being alive makes it all so very clear. With a child's heart, nothing can ever get you down.

SMITH: I like this Stevie Wonder song because I go through life with a child's heart. You know, if you have a child's heart, you can laugh. You can sing. You can play. You can be serious, or you can be funny. You can be many things with a child's heart. So that's why I love that song.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WITH A CHILD'S HEART")

BROMFIELD: (Singing) The whole world smiles with you as you go your merry way, 'cause with a child's heart, nothing can ever get you down. With a child's heart...

SMITH: One of my favorite songs in the kitchen when I'm at home - I like to listen to Walter Jackson, and one of my favorite Walter Jackson songs is "Welcome Home." I won't sing it, because he did such a great job.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WELCOME HOME")

WALTER JACKSON: (Singing) We acted like children, and don't tell me that you're sorry.

SMITH: There's just something about "Welcome Home" that I just love. First of all, he had a great voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WELCOME HOME")

JACKSON: (Singing) Darling, I'm so glad to have you home. Welcome home, my baby. Welcome home, my darling. 'Cause this time, we'll make it.

SMITH: He was so soulful. It's like a Jerry Butler voice. You know, you don't find those all the time. So that's why I liked Walter Jackson.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "WELCOME HOME")

JACKSON: (Singing) And we'll let pride be something we had in our love, not just in ourselves. Baby, it's so good to have you home. Oh, welcome home, my darling.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TURN OFF THE LIGHTS")

TEDDY PENDERGRASS: (Singing) Turn off the lights.

SMITH: Teddy Pendergrass. Oh, my God. I get chills just, you know, thinking of Teddy.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TURN OFF THE LIGHTS")

PENDERGRASS: (Singing) Tonight, I'm in a romantic mood. Yeah. Let's take a shower, shower together. I'll wash your body, if you wash mine. Yeah.

SMITH: He had a great voice, too. You know, and I like - love lyrics. I love what the songs say. And, of course, I like romance, and Teddy was talking dirty to me.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "TURN OFF THE LIGHTS")

PENDERGRASS: (Singing) Girl, I want to give you a special treat. You're so sweet. Turn off the lights.

MARTIN: That was chef and restaurateur B. Smith, telling us what's playing in her ear. To hear our previous conversation with B. Smith, please go to our website. Go to npr.org, click on the Programs tab and then on TELL ME MORE.

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