Alexander Smalls | Championing African Cuisine Globally

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TGP International is proud to share this piece on our friend and partner, Alexandre Smalls.

Meet Chef Alexander Smalls, co-owner and Executive Chef of the acclaimed restaurants The Cecil and Minton's. His culinary expertise and visionary approach have earned him numerous accolades. Our team at TGP International had the honour of collaborating with Chef Alexander to create Alkebulan - the African Dining Hall at Expo 2020 Dubai. This project holds a special place in the team at TGP International's hearts, as we worked closely with him to bring his unique and authentic vision to life. 

If there's one thing that Chef Alexander Smalls is passionate about, it's capturing the essence of African cuisine for all to enjoy.

In a recent appearance on the Corner Table Talks Podcast, Chef Smalls provided some insight into his impressive career as a chef, restaurateur, cookbook author, and Tony Award-winning actor. In his own words, his journey has taken him to five continents and has been centered around a mission to "follow the path throughout the African diaspora" and change the global culinary conversation.

Smalls embarked on his culinary career in the 90s after retiring from the entertainment industry. His acclaimed restaurants Minton's and The Cecil, were celebrities in their own right, showcasing contemporary African-American cuisine in the heart of Harlem. This was a major step towards giving African cuisine, a place of representation and a voice in the global culinary scene. Over the years, the restaurant's unique spin on traditional African recipes has earned Smalls a coveted James Beard Award and an international reputation.

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Minton's and The Cecil

Smalls' innovative approach and willingness to take risks has earned him admiration and respect among culinary enthusiasts worldwide. Alkebulan Dining Hall, for instance, was a groundbreaking venture by Chef Alexander Smalls and his business partner JJ Johnson to celebrate the African Culinary Revival. The menu featured dishes derived from different African cuisines, all with a modern twist. The restaurant represented a shift in the traditionally Western-centric food industry towards diverse, authentic cultural dining experiences.

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In the podcast, Chef Smalls also explained how his African heritage has inspired and informed his cooking. African cuisine has a storied past and a rich cultural significance, and Smalls has been devoted to capturing the essence of African cuisine for all to enjoy. By drawing on the continent's diverse culinary traditions, he has unlocked a world of new flavours and spices that have changed the culinary conversation globally. His devotion to the authentic preparation and presentation of African cuisine has helped change perceptions of it and elevate it as a global culinary staple.

Despite all the success, Chef Alexander Smalls' journey hasn't been smooth sailing. In his conversation with host Brad Johnson, he shared about the challenges he faced as a Black chef in a predominantly white industry. In addition to that, he also had to navigate the biases and stereotypes that come with seeking to bring African cuisine to a global audience. Nevertheless, he persisted, and his success is a testament to how dedication, talent, and hard work can lead to big things in the culinary world.

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Alexander Smalls' culinary journey has been an inspiration to many, showcasing the potential of authentic cultural cuisine to transcend borders, cultures, and prejudices. His passion for African cuisine remains instrumental in shaping the culinary scene globally and elevating the cuisine's profile. By tuning in to the Corner Table Talks Episode, listeners can gain insights into the mind of a true culinary icon and one of the most important voices in the African-American culinary scene.

Listen to the full podcast here

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