We had the good fortune of connecting with Lawrence Smith and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lawrence, how do you think about risk?
Risk is an inherent part of being overly ambitious and being overly ambitious seems to be a habit of mine. It all started when I was young, my love of sports consumed me and I decided NFL or nothing. Thankfully I had people in my corner, namely my parents, who naturally had their concerns and urged me to take educated risks. They would advise to give everything I had to football but to understand the chances of making it to my dream where slim. Stay in school and set yourself up for life after football whether that be making it to my dream or not. I’m proud to have made my dream a reality and as it came to the end the ambition lead to new unfortunately less calculated risks, like moving across country, with random or no jobs chasing the chance to continue dream. Eventually the risk wasn’t sustainable and it was time to hang up the cleats. That hunger, drive and overly ambitious mindset was never lost. I had to learn how to survive without the 9-5 corporate lifestyle and pursue a new passion; culinary. My mind was already made up, I would become a restaurateur. Putting almost everything on the line to chase the culinary world, I quit my job, lived on couches and enrolled in culinary school. What I didn’t know, is that working 100-hour work weeks, low pay, little sleep, and extreme exhaustion is what it would take to make it in the culinary world. Here I am, turning the page to the next chapter and once again its titled RISK. So why shy away now?
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As with a lot of athletes who don’t get to go out on their own terms, my athletic career came to an end and I struggled to transition back into civilian life. I was undoubtedly lost with no career direction. Looking back at it, my dad was a chef for many years before switching careers. I think food has always been in my blood, although I didn’t really realize it. That’s when I decided to go to culinary school. Structure, competition, self-motivation, overcoming adversity, teamwork — all things I learned in football. Every recipe is a film session taught by your chef (coach), every ticket is a play to be called by the expo (quarterback) and executed by the cooks (skilled players). I went through culinary training camp, learning the intangibles in top kitchens around the Valley under chefs such as Beau Macmillan (personality), Alex Stratta (technique), and Rene Andrade (heart). I’ve been coached my whole life and although this is a small step, it’s my step to take and I couldn’t be more excited. After checking out local markets and surprisingly not finding taco vendors, I wanted to bring my spin to the market. Fortunately, I was able to travel to Mexico pre-pandemic. Excitedly exploring the cities of Sinaloa through food and graciously experiencing the culture with the most welcoming and loving people. Tacos are naturally an uncomplicated concept, highly customizable, and a delicious, healthy option — lean protein, no gluten, and veggie garnishes. Simply put, it came from the love of tacos. There’s no right or wrong reason to cook and every cook has theirs. For me, I want people to feel the love, the culture of gathering and sharing new moments that stem from old memories. To experience the feeling when you smell or taste something and it instantly transports you. For me, that specific smell is cherry pie. Just for a moment, time is suspended in the air, my ears deafen, I feel the warm sun on my skin as the memory of picking cherries in the backyard and baking pies with my mom flashes by. That daydream feeling is what inspires me.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
My best friends are definitely Hop Heads so we’ll have to spend a day doing brewery tours Wren House, Pedal & Helton to start then find us some grub, Im thinking a day like this calls for Dinos Pizza. Then we’d hit a day trip to Sedona for some hiking and camping. Looks like I’m cooking Cowboy Steaks over an open fire. Then another quick trip to Flagstaff hitting Shift Kitchen & the Mother Road Taproom Heading back to Phoenix we check out some spring training coffee at Sip & dinner at Glai Ban Lastly we’d have to start the smokers early and put an evening together inviting all the friends and family in-town over for a good ole fashioned cook out. (Pre-Covid Era Style) A day of rest and relaxation and thats the week. Au revoir!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
First and foremost I’ve got to shout out my friends, family and God – Huge pillars of support in all aspects since day one! Secondly, I have to shout out my upbringing in athletics its given me a community, each team is it’s own little family and it has taught me so many intangibles from organization tot how to overcome adversity and be adaptable.
I have to give big props and credit to Gabe Gardner and Local First. They are an AZ small business incubator and have really helped the small culinary forward businesses move from concept through development to launch. With continued support through their first couple of years. Amazing group and amazing people.