Alexander Smalls has had a couple of long and storied careers.
After first pursuing a career in opera, he went on to bring his flair for performance to the restaurant world with the opening of Café Beulah in New York City, introducing the soul food he grew up on to fine-dining clientele.
He later opened other restaurants including Sweet Ophelia’s and Shoebox Café and rocketed back into the limelight in 2013 with the opening of The Cecil, which highlighted the interplay between African and Asian cuisines.
Now Smalls is working on a new project, Alkebulan, a food hall specializing in the cuisines of Africa. It’s already up and running in Dubai, and now he’s working on developing locations in London and New York City.
That’s a big job. Africa has 54 countries, each with multiple ethnic groups and each of them with diverse culinary traditions, from the savory stews and spongy injera bread of Ethiopia to the grilled meats of a South African-style braai to the jollof rice that unites West Africa as a common dish throughout the region and also divides it because there are so many opinions about what it’s actually supposed to taste like.
Smalls is up for the challenge however, and he recently discussed his plans, including how each food hall will not only reflect the food and cultures of Africa, but the impact it has had in the cities were the different Alkebulan halls will be located.
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