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Paging Mr. Smith

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In 1998, Memphis native Ben Smith and his wife, Colleen, opened Tsunami, specializing in Asian cuisine from the Pacific Rim. The dishes were a hit, and the restaurant is consistently packed. Now, Smith has written his first cookbook, Tsunami Restaurant Cookbook: A Wave of Flavors Inspired by the Pacific Rim, which features many of the most popular dishes from Tsunami's menu as well as Smith's insight into Asian ingredients and cooking techniques.

The book is scheduled to be released September 15th by Pelican Publishing Company and will be available for purchase at the restaurant, area bookstores, and through Amazon.com. A preview party and book signing is being held at Tsunami, located in Cooper-Young, Sunday, September 11th, from 4 to 6 p.m.

"The cookbook is a greatest-hits collection," Smith says. "Our menu changes often, and it includes the items that have had the greatest success."

Much of the inspiration for the restaurant and the book came from Smith's experience traveling and cooking in the South Pacific region. Although Smith was educated in traditional French cooking methods at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York, he was attracted to Asian cuisine.

"I left the CIA with a growing interest in Asian food, and I went out and experienced it more and gained a lot of respect for the Asian style of cooking, ingredients, and health aspects," Smith says.

Following graduation, he moved to San Francisco, where he worked for about three years for Jeremiah Tower at Stars restaurant. In 1989, he embarked on a self-guided tour of the South Pacific, working and living in Australia, New Zealand, and other islands in the region. He returned to the United States to work with a friend in Hawaii.

In the early '90s, Smith returned home to Memphis, with the idea to open a restaurant and eventually write a cookbook. A few years ago, a friend asked if he'd like to co-write a book. Although Smith declined, it wasn't long before he was writing his own.

"It was important to establish credibility and name recognition for the restaurant first," Smith says. "Once I took the leap to open my own restaurant, it was an opportunity to create the environment I wanted to be in and cook the food I like to cook. Rather than create a restaurant that appealed to Memphians, I took a chance and created something that appealed to me. Luckily, Memphians took to it and have been supporting it for seven years."

Tsunami, 928 South Cooper (274-2556)

The Dixon is celebrating its 10th annual Art on Tap beer-tasting Friday, September 9th, from 6 to 9 p.m. Boscos Squared has created a special Hefeweizen beer for this year's fund-raiser.

Art on Tap will also feature a variety of domestic and import beers, including batches created by the Bluff City Brewers and Connoisseurs. Central BBQ, Holiday Deli and Ham, and Blue Coast Burrito will provide food. Venus Mission will be performing on the lawn of the museum. The festival is the largest beer tasting in Memphis. Last year's event drew 1,000 people and tickets sold out. Advance tickets for Art on Tap (purchased by 5 p.m. Thursday, September 8th) are $15 for Dixon members and $20 for nonmembers. All gate tickets are $25.

The Dixon is also gearing up to reopen the Terrace Café, which is an opportunity to enjoy lunch while enjoying the view of the museum's 17-acre grounds and gardens. September 27th through 30th and October 4th through 7th, lunch will be served inside the European-style Hughes Pavilion. The meal, prepared by Just Catering, will be accompanied by a table-side fashion show from Laurelwood Shopping Center. Cost is $20 per person and includes admission to the exhibit "Mary McFadden: High Priestess of High Fashion." To reserve a seat, call Juliana Bjorklund at 761-5250, ext. 121.

The Vegan Sisters, a nonprofit group that provides education and support for people interested in living a vegan lifestyle, has created a festival exclusively for the herbivores in the community. The Vegan & Raw Food Serve will be held 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, September 10th, at the Cultural Connection, 2288 Dunn Ave. Lion's Bread International will serve vegan and raw meals and play roots-reggae and dance-hall music. For more information, call 744-7313.

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