Oprah's Former Chef Art Smith Sprints into Wedded Bliss

The Top Chef Masters contestant married his longtime partner in front the Lincoln Memorial after a four mile run with friends

Photo: Moshe Zusman Photography LLC

Forget a limo – James Beard award winning chef Art Smith went a different route for his wedding transportation: He kicked off the day with a four-mile run through Washington, D.C., alongside his longtime partner Jesus Salgueiro and 485 guests.

“We had the runners, the joggers, the walkers,” Smith tells PEOPLE. “We had sweat on our shirts but nobody cared because it was beautiful.”

The run, which began at Smith’s D.C. restaurant Art and Soul, ended at the base of the Lincoln Memorial, where the grooms shared a marriage blessing last Saturday.

“It was this big gay wedding,” Smith, 50, who served as Oprah‘s personal chef for 10 years, says, laughing. “But it was a wedding made up our friends from all over the world.”

Why the sweaty start to the day?

“I believe in the idea of wellness and health. We need to take better care of ourselves,” says the chef, who famously dropped close to 100 lbs. over the past year thanks to a healthy diet and regular exercise.

As for the location of the wedding blessing, the Lincoln Memorial was a special request of Salgueiro, 49, who has been in remission from cancer for several years. The couple secured a protest license in order to gather at the national monument. “We reflected on the fact that we live in a great nation, and that all people should have equality,” says Smith.

Let There Be … Fried Chicken

Back at Art and Soul, guests feasted on a wedding brunch prepared by all-star chefs. On the menu: a fingerling potato salad by Top Chef‘s Lee Anne Wong; buttermilk fried chicken by Rey Villalobos and John Vermiglio of Smith’s Table Fifty-Two restaurant in Chicago; smoked brisket by Hill Country’s Elizabeth Karmel; and barbecue pulled pork by fellow BBQ Pitmaster judge Myron Mixon.

“Barbecue has always been a favorite of mine,” says Smith. “And I said if we don’t serve fried chicken, we’re going to have a riot!”

For dessert, there was a nine layer wedding cake decked out in green fondant, which was baked by Duff Goldman (aka the Ace of Cakes).

“I was thinking, I don’t like wedding cake and this cake has to be the best wedding cake I’ve ever had in my mouth,” says the chef. “It was incredible.”

In lieu of wedding gifts, the grooms requested that donations be made to Common Threads, a charity Smith founded which teaches low-income kids to cook nutritious meals.

“I love a party, and people had an amazing time,” Smith says. But just as important? “They all ate a lot of food.”

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