After almost two decades, changes are in store at Cooper-Young restaurant Tsunami. Restaurant owner, chef, and author Ben Smith recently announced his purchase of the three bay Cooper-Young building located at 928 South Cooper Street that has been home to Tsunami for more than 18 years. Smith bought the property for $625,000 from Jeane E. Umbreit.
The purchase portends changes for Tsunami as it closes in on its 20th anniversary. The first is an extension of business hours. In a move designed to attract after-show diners from the nearby theaters of Overton Square, Tsunami is now open 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday 5-11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Further down the road are a general remodeling and a new concept for the restaurant’s south side dining room. Currently used for large parties and overflow seating from the main dining area, the room will become a cozy, casual restaurant within a restaurant with less expensive small plates for people who don’t want Tsunami’s more formal dining experience.
““[This expansion] is a renewed challenge to myself to dig deeper into my creativity and ride this wave to the next level,” Smith said in a blog post.
Smith, a Memphis native, graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1986. After stints in San Francisco, Australia, Tahiti, and Hawaii. in 1994, Smith returned to Memphis and in 1998 opened Tsunami.
The seafood-focused restaurant was an immediate success. Tsunami was named “Best New Restaurant” by Memphis Magazine. Smith cooked at the James Beard Foundation in 2002 and 2005. The Tsunami Restaurant Cookbook was published in 2005, The Memphis Restaurant Association voted him “Restaurateur of the Year” in 2010.
Smith continues to serve as a community leader with past roles including vice-president of the Cooper-Young Business Association and president of the Project Green Fork board. He currently serves on the Board of Advisors for L’Ecole Culinaire, where he taught from 2010-2012, and is in the Leadership Memphis Executive Class of 2017.