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12 Culinary Content Stories to Read Right Now Slideshow

12 Culinary Content Stories to Read Right Now Slideshow

Cleverly Inspired — All Recipes Dinner Spinner

Cleverly Inspired (Be inspired to be clever), believes that knowledge is for sharing. Her mission is to share a sense of accomplishment, pride, and a desire to never stop learning with all that read her blog. Here, she highlights All Recipes’ app Dinner Spinner, a free, user-friendly app that’s easy, and worth it.

Culinary Connectors — Where To Drink This Week: Aspen, Gisella

Culinary Connectors was launched in November 2008, with a mission to educate and share the culinary talent of Colorado, by way of highlighting its restaurants, shops, chefs, farmers, and producers. In this piece, they tell us where to drink in Aspen, Colo., uncovering Gisella’s "La Dolce Vita" wine tasting.

Prevention RD — Beef and Ricotta Meatballs

Prevention RD, authored by registered dietitian Nicole, was started as a way to stay "up to date" in nutrition, and to share that knowledge with her guests. Having overcome a weight-loss battle of her own, her work is passionate and relevant, and she loves her new double-life as the director of nutrition services at a small, local hospital, and as a home blogger, cook, and wife by night. Here, Nicole shares a recipe for Beef and Ricotta Meatballs, and the pictures look delectable.

Burnt My Fingers — Digesting the Fancy Food Show San Francisco 2013

Burnt My Fingers, a "perpetually hungry and thirsty guy" hailing from Saratoga Springs, N.Y., thinks that "good eats cannot be taken for granted." The one thing he hates is a routine meal, and his quest is to discover the new and the delicious. Here, he shares tales from the Fancy Food Show in San Francisco, having "walked away with a full belly and a few inspirations..."

Miss... in the Kitchen — Bacon-Ricotta and Orange Marmalade Topped Parmesan Crisps

Miss… in the Kitchen, a wife and mother of three, started her own barbecue sauce business and knows how to cook for the cowboys of the West. Her life in Wyoming is picturesque, but her desire to reach people keeps her writing, cooking, and sharing with the world. In this post, she makes Bacon-Ricotta and Orange Marmalade Topped Parmesan Crisps, a recipe we’d love to run home and try.

Duo Dishes — The Duo’s Ethnic Exploration: Peru

The Duo Dishes, a duo otherwise known as Chrystal and Amir, two passionate eaters, experimental cooks, and college friends based in Southern California, began in 2008 as a showcase for mixed family traditions, regional fare, and new ethnic flavors — making both quick-fix meals and elaborate feasts. Here, the two explore the ethnic cuisine of Peru and show us how to make a Peruvian quinoa stew.

Kitchen Stewardship — How to Boil a Husband (Eat Well, Spend Less)

Kitchen Stewardship focuses on faith, food, and family, and tries to help others eat well, save money, and be gentle to the Earth, all while having enough time to spend with the people that you care for. In this post, Kitchen Stewardship gets back to the basics and gives tips on eating well while spending less, specifically in the area of relationships.

Stir and Strain — Behold, The Spice

Stir and Strain (A Cocktail Scratch Pad) is all about cocktails. More specifically, it is about "recipes, growing stuff, making stuff, and drinking stuff" (and being concise). Here, she explains how to make a good Los Angeles thirst-quencher with her article, "Behold, The Spice."

Care's Kitchen: Buffalo Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs

Care’s Kitchen is a wife, mother, daughter, sister, neighbor, and friend, who loves to cook, entertain, decorate, and write. She’s no stranger to the ups and downs of life and embraces the good moments she has, while making the most out of life’s so little time. Here, she gets Southern and creative, detailing a recipe for Buffalo Blue Cheese Deviled Eggs that no one should miss.

Be Mindful. Be Human. Eat — How To Make Pasta

Be Mindful. Eat is a blog about finding the balance of flavors in the food that we make and eat. Emphasizing the mindfulness involved in finding this balance, they remind us that the process isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it, and that food is to be enjoyed, shared, and remembered. Here, Be Mindful. Eat explains how to make pasta from scratch, and how to do it right (without a headache).

Ingredients, Inc. — Blueberry Yogurt Parfait: Gluten Free

Ingredients, Inc. is a blog by Alison Lewis, editor-in-chief and founder of Healthy Travel, a digital magazine launching in March of this year. She has a number of roles on her résumé, from cookbook author to television and social media spokesperson to president of Ingredients, Inc., a media consulting company in Birmingham, Ala. In this article, she responds to requests for more gluten-free breakfast recipes, providing a high-protein, gluten-free recipe that’s great for breakfast or an afternoon snack.

30A Eats — 723 Whiskey Bravo Announces Alan Baltazar As New Executive Chef: South Walton

30A Eats (Take a Bite of the Good Life) loves food, "it’s just that simple." In her blog, Susan Benton goes beyond food's surface, and aims to highlight the people behind its existence, and to show where good food comes from and where you can get it. In this post, 30A Eats shares Florida restaurant news, with the announcement of 723 Whiskey Bravo Bistro & Bar’s new executive chef Alan Baltazar.


The Unsung Influence of Restaurateur Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls has crammed his corner apartment in Harlem with color—leopard-print cushions dot yellow couches, and jewel-colored drapes from his travels in Ghana sweep the floor—creating a warmth that matches the acclaimed chef and restaurateur’s welcome. As he enters his kitchen, dubbed his “laboratory,” to prepare something to eat, classical music at turns lulls and roars, apropos—his first act as a baritone earned him a Grammy and a Tony for a cast recording of Porgy and Bess. Smalls, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, traces both of those passions to his family’s roots there and in the Lowcountry, and the heritage coastal recipes he was raised on.

photo: Justin Bettman

As Smalls, now sixty-eight, traveled the world performing arias as a young man, he began taking culinary classes and eventually opened his own catering company. His first restaurant, Café Beulah, debuted in New York in 1994, and with it and each successive opening (including the Cecil, hailed as Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America”) and cookbook (such as the James Beard Award–snagging Between Harlem and Heaven), he has sought to emphasize what he calls “Southern Revival” cooking, and to champion the contributions of people of the African diaspora. In February, Smalls releases his latest cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, and a passion-project album, The African American Songbook, Volume I, both of which continue to cement his legacy as an undersung hero of music, food, culture, and history.

You’ve been called a culinary historian, a foodways preservationist, and a social minister. How do you define yourself?
I am a culinary activist for the African diaspora—people of color who essentially had been pushed out and suppressed in the story line of America’s great culinary tradition. But at the heart of it all I’m an artist—a raconteur. I love telling stories, no matter the medium.

That includes stories of your ancestors—the photos of them on your wall here at home once adorned the walls of Café Beulah.
These people made me who I am. This is my aunt Laura she was my first piano teacher in Spartanburg. This is my father—he was about twelve years old here, and he was trying to be grown, wearing fake glasses. [Laughs.] For years our family thought we had Cherokee in our blood. When I opened Café Beulah, customers would come in and say, “Who are these Jewish people?” I would explain the photos were of my family. I did my DNA—I’m 30 percent Jewish and zero North American. I knew Grandma was, or so I thought, Indian, Scottish, and African. The Jewish bit was a big surprise, but one of the first synagogues in the States was in Charleston. Supposedly Smalls is from Smallstein, a Jewish merchant. DNA is taking us places we thought we would never go.

Every square inch of your apartment is filled with memorabilia. What piece is on your mind at the moment?
Toni Morrison invited me to go with her when she received the Nobel Prize, and because I had just opened the restaurant, I couldn’t get away. So as a gift, two weeks later this plaque arrived. She wrote, “To Alexander, with pleasure,” because I wasn’t able to be there. When she passed, I posted it on Instagram, and I think about it here, a lot.

You’ve opened a series of lauded restaurants, but you won your first James Beard Award in 2018 for the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, which you cowrote with your mentee, the chef JJ Johnson. What did that recognition mean to you?
The James Beard Award represents validation for a career that has been expansive over thirty years, and has been mostly ignored by the establishment. Still, I didn’t get into this profession to win awards—I got into it because I had a passion for it.

Yet here you are with a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard.
Life is funny that way! I’m passionate about what I decide to pursue. Even with writing, it comes to me like a song—if I have the first two words, everything else just flows. I bring the same insights, instincts, and talents to food that I bring to music.

Your new book departs from your past cookbooks—comfort foods are found under “Spirituals,” and audacious mains like oven-fried baby chickens with hot mustard apricot jam are listed under “Divas,” with an accompanying playlist.
In [my first cookbook] Grace the Table, I was introducing myself, and I was doing so in the arms of my ancestors and the growing-up experience. Take the lamb meat loaf recipe: My mother used to say, “Hide half the kitchen—that boy puts every ingredient in everything he makes,” but that was my process. In Between Harlem and Heaven, I was defining a culinary concept that I had created based on an expanded narrative of Lowcountry cooking that I call “Southern Revival” cooking. I follow the slave routes, and the course of Africans on five continents, and how their cooking techniques and ingredients changed food. With Meals, Music, and Muses, I’m at the point where I can break the rules. This book allows music to curate the culinary experience. None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen. I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.

That view informed your music project too. What served as the impetus behind The African American Songbook, Volume I?
My great concern was the extinction of African American song practices and music. Jazz is dying a slow death. More frightening and uncomfortable to me is the death of the Negro spiritual—the creative genius of enslaved people who were not allowed to gather unless it was about religion. This has rested on my heart for years, and I wondered what I could do about it. So I teamed up with two extraordinary producers, Robert Sadin and Ulysses Owens Jr., and I’m taking Negro spirituals and creating a modern setting for them. I’m taking them out of the gospel church idiom and putting them in a jazz landscape.


The Unsung Influence of Restaurateur Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls has crammed his corner apartment in Harlem with color—leopard-print cushions dot yellow couches, and jewel-colored drapes from his travels in Ghana sweep the floor—creating a warmth that matches the acclaimed chef and restaurateur’s welcome. As he enters his kitchen, dubbed his “laboratory,” to prepare something to eat, classical music at turns lulls and roars, apropos—his first act as a baritone earned him a Grammy and a Tony for a cast recording of Porgy and Bess. Smalls, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, traces both of those passions to his family’s roots there and in the Lowcountry, and the heritage coastal recipes he was raised on.

photo: Justin Bettman

As Smalls, now sixty-eight, traveled the world performing arias as a young man, he began taking culinary classes and eventually opened his own catering company. His first restaurant, Café Beulah, debuted in New York in 1994, and with it and each successive opening (including the Cecil, hailed as Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America”) and cookbook (such as the James Beard Award–snagging Between Harlem and Heaven), he has sought to emphasize what he calls “Southern Revival” cooking, and to champion the contributions of people of the African diaspora. In February, Smalls releases his latest cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, and a passion-project album, The African American Songbook, Volume I, both of which continue to cement his legacy as an undersung hero of music, food, culture, and history.

You’ve been called a culinary historian, a foodways preservationist, and a social minister. How do you define yourself?
I am a culinary activist for the African diaspora—people of color who essentially had been pushed out and suppressed in the story line of America’s great culinary tradition. But at the heart of it all I’m an artist—a raconteur. I love telling stories, no matter the medium.

That includes stories of your ancestors—the photos of them on your wall here at home once adorned the walls of Café Beulah.
These people made me who I am. This is my aunt Laura she was my first piano teacher in Spartanburg. This is my father—he was about twelve years old here, and he was trying to be grown, wearing fake glasses. [Laughs.] For years our family thought we had Cherokee in our blood. When I opened Café Beulah, customers would come in and say, “Who are these Jewish people?” I would explain the photos were of my family. I did my DNA—I’m 30 percent Jewish and zero North American. I knew Grandma was, or so I thought, Indian, Scottish, and African. The Jewish bit was a big surprise, but one of the first synagogues in the States was in Charleston. Supposedly Smalls is from Smallstein, a Jewish merchant. DNA is taking us places we thought we would never go.

Every square inch of your apartment is filled with memorabilia. What piece is on your mind at the moment?
Toni Morrison invited me to go with her when she received the Nobel Prize, and because I had just opened the restaurant, I couldn’t get away. So as a gift, two weeks later this plaque arrived. She wrote, “To Alexander, with pleasure,” because I wasn’t able to be there. When she passed, I posted it on Instagram, and I think about it here, a lot.

You’ve opened a series of lauded restaurants, but you won your first James Beard Award in 2018 for the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, which you cowrote with your mentee, the chef JJ Johnson. What did that recognition mean to you?
The James Beard Award represents validation for a career that has been expansive over thirty years, and has been mostly ignored by the establishment. Still, I didn’t get into this profession to win awards—I got into it because I had a passion for it.

Yet here you are with a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard.
Life is funny that way! I’m passionate about what I decide to pursue. Even with writing, it comes to me like a song—if I have the first two words, everything else just flows. I bring the same insights, instincts, and talents to food that I bring to music.

Your new book departs from your past cookbooks—comfort foods are found under “Spirituals,” and audacious mains like oven-fried baby chickens with hot mustard apricot jam are listed under “Divas,” with an accompanying playlist.
In [my first cookbook] Grace the Table, I was introducing myself, and I was doing so in the arms of my ancestors and the growing-up experience. Take the lamb meat loaf recipe: My mother used to say, “Hide half the kitchen—that boy puts every ingredient in everything he makes,” but that was my process. In Between Harlem and Heaven, I was defining a culinary concept that I had created based on an expanded narrative of Lowcountry cooking that I call “Southern Revival” cooking. I follow the slave routes, and the course of Africans on five continents, and how their cooking techniques and ingredients changed food. With Meals, Music, and Muses, I’m at the point where I can break the rules. This book allows music to curate the culinary experience. None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen. I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.

That view informed your music project too. What served as the impetus behind The African American Songbook, Volume I?
My great concern was the extinction of African American song practices and music. Jazz is dying a slow death. More frightening and uncomfortable to me is the death of the Negro spiritual—the creative genius of enslaved people who were not allowed to gather unless it was about religion. This has rested on my heart for years, and I wondered what I could do about it. So I teamed up with two extraordinary producers, Robert Sadin and Ulysses Owens Jr., and I’m taking Negro spirituals and creating a modern setting for them. I’m taking them out of the gospel church idiom and putting them in a jazz landscape.


The Unsung Influence of Restaurateur Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls has crammed his corner apartment in Harlem with color—leopard-print cushions dot yellow couches, and jewel-colored drapes from his travels in Ghana sweep the floor—creating a warmth that matches the acclaimed chef and restaurateur’s welcome. As he enters his kitchen, dubbed his “laboratory,” to prepare something to eat, classical music at turns lulls and roars, apropos—his first act as a baritone earned him a Grammy and a Tony for a cast recording of Porgy and Bess. Smalls, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, traces both of those passions to his family’s roots there and in the Lowcountry, and the heritage coastal recipes he was raised on.

photo: Justin Bettman

As Smalls, now sixty-eight, traveled the world performing arias as a young man, he began taking culinary classes and eventually opened his own catering company. His first restaurant, Café Beulah, debuted in New York in 1994, and with it and each successive opening (including the Cecil, hailed as Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America”) and cookbook (such as the James Beard Award–snagging Between Harlem and Heaven), he has sought to emphasize what he calls “Southern Revival” cooking, and to champion the contributions of people of the African diaspora. In February, Smalls releases his latest cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, and a passion-project album, The African American Songbook, Volume I, both of which continue to cement his legacy as an undersung hero of music, food, culture, and history.

You’ve been called a culinary historian, a foodways preservationist, and a social minister. How do you define yourself?
I am a culinary activist for the African diaspora—people of color who essentially had been pushed out and suppressed in the story line of America’s great culinary tradition. But at the heart of it all I’m an artist—a raconteur. I love telling stories, no matter the medium.

That includes stories of your ancestors—the photos of them on your wall here at home once adorned the walls of Café Beulah.
These people made me who I am. This is my aunt Laura she was my first piano teacher in Spartanburg. This is my father—he was about twelve years old here, and he was trying to be grown, wearing fake glasses. [Laughs.] For years our family thought we had Cherokee in our blood. When I opened Café Beulah, customers would come in and say, “Who are these Jewish people?” I would explain the photos were of my family. I did my DNA—I’m 30 percent Jewish and zero North American. I knew Grandma was, or so I thought, Indian, Scottish, and African. The Jewish bit was a big surprise, but one of the first synagogues in the States was in Charleston. Supposedly Smalls is from Smallstein, a Jewish merchant. DNA is taking us places we thought we would never go.

Every square inch of your apartment is filled with memorabilia. What piece is on your mind at the moment?
Toni Morrison invited me to go with her when she received the Nobel Prize, and because I had just opened the restaurant, I couldn’t get away. So as a gift, two weeks later this plaque arrived. She wrote, “To Alexander, with pleasure,” because I wasn’t able to be there. When she passed, I posted it on Instagram, and I think about it here, a lot.

You’ve opened a series of lauded restaurants, but you won your first James Beard Award in 2018 for the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, which you cowrote with your mentee, the chef JJ Johnson. What did that recognition mean to you?
The James Beard Award represents validation for a career that has been expansive over thirty years, and has been mostly ignored by the establishment. Still, I didn’t get into this profession to win awards—I got into it because I had a passion for it.

Yet here you are with a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard.
Life is funny that way! I’m passionate about what I decide to pursue. Even with writing, it comes to me like a song—if I have the first two words, everything else just flows. I bring the same insights, instincts, and talents to food that I bring to music.

Your new book departs from your past cookbooks—comfort foods are found under “Spirituals,” and audacious mains like oven-fried baby chickens with hot mustard apricot jam are listed under “Divas,” with an accompanying playlist.
In [my first cookbook] Grace the Table, I was introducing myself, and I was doing so in the arms of my ancestors and the growing-up experience. Take the lamb meat loaf recipe: My mother used to say, “Hide half the kitchen—that boy puts every ingredient in everything he makes,” but that was my process. In Between Harlem and Heaven, I was defining a culinary concept that I had created based on an expanded narrative of Lowcountry cooking that I call “Southern Revival” cooking. I follow the slave routes, and the course of Africans on five continents, and how their cooking techniques and ingredients changed food. With Meals, Music, and Muses, I’m at the point where I can break the rules. This book allows music to curate the culinary experience. None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen. I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.

That view informed your music project too. What served as the impetus behind The African American Songbook, Volume I?
My great concern was the extinction of African American song practices and music. Jazz is dying a slow death. More frightening and uncomfortable to me is the death of the Negro spiritual—the creative genius of enslaved people who were not allowed to gather unless it was about religion. This has rested on my heart for years, and I wondered what I could do about it. So I teamed up with two extraordinary producers, Robert Sadin and Ulysses Owens Jr., and I’m taking Negro spirituals and creating a modern setting for them. I’m taking them out of the gospel church idiom and putting them in a jazz landscape.


The Unsung Influence of Restaurateur Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls has crammed his corner apartment in Harlem with color—leopard-print cushions dot yellow couches, and jewel-colored drapes from his travels in Ghana sweep the floor—creating a warmth that matches the acclaimed chef and restaurateur’s welcome. As he enters his kitchen, dubbed his “laboratory,” to prepare something to eat, classical music at turns lulls and roars, apropos—his first act as a baritone earned him a Grammy and a Tony for a cast recording of Porgy and Bess. Smalls, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, traces both of those passions to his family’s roots there and in the Lowcountry, and the heritage coastal recipes he was raised on.

photo: Justin Bettman

As Smalls, now sixty-eight, traveled the world performing arias as a young man, he began taking culinary classes and eventually opened his own catering company. His first restaurant, Café Beulah, debuted in New York in 1994, and with it and each successive opening (including the Cecil, hailed as Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America”) and cookbook (such as the James Beard Award–snagging Between Harlem and Heaven), he has sought to emphasize what he calls “Southern Revival” cooking, and to champion the contributions of people of the African diaspora. In February, Smalls releases his latest cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, and a passion-project album, The African American Songbook, Volume I, both of which continue to cement his legacy as an undersung hero of music, food, culture, and history.

You’ve been called a culinary historian, a foodways preservationist, and a social minister. How do you define yourself?
I am a culinary activist for the African diaspora—people of color who essentially had been pushed out and suppressed in the story line of America’s great culinary tradition. But at the heart of it all I’m an artist—a raconteur. I love telling stories, no matter the medium.

That includes stories of your ancestors—the photos of them on your wall here at home once adorned the walls of Café Beulah.
These people made me who I am. This is my aunt Laura she was my first piano teacher in Spartanburg. This is my father—he was about twelve years old here, and he was trying to be grown, wearing fake glasses. [Laughs.] For years our family thought we had Cherokee in our blood. When I opened Café Beulah, customers would come in and say, “Who are these Jewish people?” I would explain the photos were of my family. I did my DNA—I’m 30 percent Jewish and zero North American. I knew Grandma was, or so I thought, Indian, Scottish, and African. The Jewish bit was a big surprise, but one of the first synagogues in the States was in Charleston. Supposedly Smalls is from Smallstein, a Jewish merchant. DNA is taking us places we thought we would never go.

Every square inch of your apartment is filled with memorabilia. What piece is on your mind at the moment?
Toni Morrison invited me to go with her when she received the Nobel Prize, and because I had just opened the restaurant, I couldn’t get away. So as a gift, two weeks later this plaque arrived. She wrote, “To Alexander, with pleasure,” because I wasn’t able to be there. When she passed, I posted it on Instagram, and I think about it here, a lot.

You’ve opened a series of lauded restaurants, but you won your first James Beard Award in 2018 for the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, which you cowrote with your mentee, the chef JJ Johnson. What did that recognition mean to you?
The James Beard Award represents validation for a career that has been expansive over thirty years, and has been mostly ignored by the establishment. Still, I didn’t get into this profession to win awards—I got into it because I had a passion for it.

Yet here you are with a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard.
Life is funny that way! I’m passionate about what I decide to pursue. Even with writing, it comes to me like a song—if I have the first two words, everything else just flows. I bring the same insights, instincts, and talents to food that I bring to music.

Your new book departs from your past cookbooks—comfort foods are found under “Spirituals,” and audacious mains like oven-fried baby chickens with hot mustard apricot jam are listed under “Divas,” with an accompanying playlist.
In [my first cookbook] Grace the Table, I was introducing myself, and I was doing so in the arms of my ancestors and the growing-up experience. Take the lamb meat loaf recipe: My mother used to say, “Hide half the kitchen—that boy puts every ingredient in everything he makes,” but that was my process. In Between Harlem and Heaven, I was defining a culinary concept that I had created based on an expanded narrative of Lowcountry cooking that I call “Southern Revival” cooking. I follow the slave routes, and the course of Africans on five continents, and how their cooking techniques and ingredients changed food. With Meals, Music, and Muses, I’m at the point where I can break the rules. This book allows music to curate the culinary experience. None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen. I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.

That view informed your music project too. What served as the impetus behind The African American Songbook, Volume I?
My great concern was the extinction of African American song practices and music. Jazz is dying a slow death. More frightening and uncomfortable to me is the death of the Negro spiritual—the creative genius of enslaved people who were not allowed to gather unless it was about religion. This has rested on my heart for years, and I wondered what I could do about it. So I teamed up with two extraordinary producers, Robert Sadin and Ulysses Owens Jr., and I’m taking Negro spirituals and creating a modern setting for them. I’m taking them out of the gospel church idiom and putting them in a jazz landscape.


The Unsung Influence of Restaurateur Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls has crammed his corner apartment in Harlem with color—leopard-print cushions dot yellow couches, and jewel-colored drapes from his travels in Ghana sweep the floor—creating a warmth that matches the acclaimed chef and restaurateur’s welcome. As he enters his kitchen, dubbed his “laboratory,” to prepare something to eat, classical music at turns lulls and roars, apropos—his first act as a baritone earned him a Grammy and a Tony for a cast recording of Porgy and Bess. Smalls, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, traces both of those passions to his family’s roots there and in the Lowcountry, and the heritage coastal recipes he was raised on.

photo: Justin Bettman

As Smalls, now sixty-eight, traveled the world performing arias as a young man, he began taking culinary classes and eventually opened his own catering company. His first restaurant, Café Beulah, debuted in New York in 1994, and with it and each successive opening (including the Cecil, hailed as Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America”) and cookbook (such as the James Beard Award–snagging Between Harlem and Heaven), he has sought to emphasize what he calls “Southern Revival” cooking, and to champion the contributions of people of the African diaspora. In February, Smalls releases his latest cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, and a passion-project album, The African American Songbook, Volume I, both of which continue to cement his legacy as an undersung hero of music, food, culture, and history.

You’ve been called a culinary historian, a foodways preservationist, and a social minister. How do you define yourself?
I am a culinary activist for the African diaspora—people of color who essentially had been pushed out and suppressed in the story line of America’s great culinary tradition. But at the heart of it all I’m an artist—a raconteur. I love telling stories, no matter the medium.

That includes stories of your ancestors—the photos of them on your wall here at home once adorned the walls of Café Beulah.
These people made me who I am. This is my aunt Laura she was my first piano teacher in Spartanburg. This is my father—he was about twelve years old here, and he was trying to be grown, wearing fake glasses. [Laughs.] For years our family thought we had Cherokee in our blood. When I opened Café Beulah, customers would come in and say, “Who are these Jewish people?” I would explain the photos were of my family. I did my DNA—I’m 30 percent Jewish and zero North American. I knew Grandma was, or so I thought, Indian, Scottish, and African. The Jewish bit was a big surprise, but one of the first synagogues in the States was in Charleston. Supposedly Smalls is from Smallstein, a Jewish merchant. DNA is taking us places we thought we would never go.

Every square inch of your apartment is filled with memorabilia. What piece is on your mind at the moment?
Toni Morrison invited me to go with her when she received the Nobel Prize, and because I had just opened the restaurant, I couldn’t get away. So as a gift, two weeks later this plaque arrived. She wrote, “To Alexander, with pleasure,” because I wasn’t able to be there. When she passed, I posted it on Instagram, and I think about it here, a lot.

You’ve opened a series of lauded restaurants, but you won your first James Beard Award in 2018 for the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, which you cowrote with your mentee, the chef JJ Johnson. What did that recognition mean to you?
The James Beard Award represents validation for a career that has been expansive over thirty years, and has been mostly ignored by the establishment. Still, I didn’t get into this profession to win awards—I got into it because I had a passion for it.

Yet here you are with a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard.
Life is funny that way! I’m passionate about what I decide to pursue. Even with writing, it comes to me like a song—if I have the first two words, everything else just flows. I bring the same insights, instincts, and talents to food that I bring to music.

Your new book departs from your past cookbooks—comfort foods are found under “Spirituals,” and audacious mains like oven-fried baby chickens with hot mustard apricot jam are listed under “Divas,” with an accompanying playlist.
In [my first cookbook] Grace the Table, I was introducing myself, and I was doing so in the arms of my ancestors and the growing-up experience. Take the lamb meat loaf recipe: My mother used to say, “Hide half the kitchen—that boy puts every ingredient in everything he makes,” but that was my process. In Between Harlem and Heaven, I was defining a culinary concept that I had created based on an expanded narrative of Lowcountry cooking that I call “Southern Revival” cooking. I follow the slave routes, and the course of Africans on five continents, and how their cooking techniques and ingredients changed food. With Meals, Music, and Muses, I’m at the point where I can break the rules. This book allows music to curate the culinary experience. None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen. I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.

That view informed your music project too. What served as the impetus behind The African American Songbook, Volume I?
My great concern was the extinction of African American song practices and music. Jazz is dying a slow death. More frightening and uncomfortable to me is the death of the Negro spiritual—the creative genius of enslaved people who were not allowed to gather unless it was about religion. This has rested on my heart for years, and I wondered what I could do about it. So I teamed up with two extraordinary producers, Robert Sadin and Ulysses Owens Jr., and I’m taking Negro spirituals and creating a modern setting for them. I’m taking them out of the gospel church idiom and putting them in a jazz landscape.


The Unsung Influence of Restaurateur Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls has crammed his corner apartment in Harlem with color—leopard-print cushions dot yellow couches, and jewel-colored drapes from his travels in Ghana sweep the floor—creating a warmth that matches the acclaimed chef and restaurateur’s welcome. As he enters his kitchen, dubbed his “laboratory,” to prepare something to eat, classical music at turns lulls and roars, apropos—his first act as a baritone earned him a Grammy and a Tony for a cast recording of Porgy and Bess. Smalls, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, traces both of those passions to his family’s roots there and in the Lowcountry, and the heritage coastal recipes he was raised on.

photo: Justin Bettman

As Smalls, now sixty-eight, traveled the world performing arias as a young man, he began taking culinary classes and eventually opened his own catering company. His first restaurant, Café Beulah, debuted in New York in 1994, and with it and each successive opening (including the Cecil, hailed as Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America”) and cookbook (such as the James Beard Award–snagging Between Harlem and Heaven), he has sought to emphasize what he calls “Southern Revival” cooking, and to champion the contributions of people of the African diaspora. In February, Smalls releases his latest cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, and a passion-project album, The African American Songbook, Volume I, both of which continue to cement his legacy as an undersung hero of music, food, culture, and history.

You’ve been called a culinary historian, a foodways preservationist, and a social minister. How do you define yourself?
I am a culinary activist for the African diaspora—people of color who essentially had been pushed out and suppressed in the story line of America’s great culinary tradition. But at the heart of it all I’m an artist—a raconteur. I love telling stories, no matter the medium.

That includes stories of your ancestors—the photos of them on your wall here at home once adorned the walls of Café Beulah.
These people made me who I am. This is my aunt Laura she was my first piano teacher in Spartanburg. This is my father—he was about twelve years old here, and he was trying to be grown, wearing fake glasses. [Laughs.] For years our family thought we had Cherokee in our blood. When I opened Café Beulah, customers would come in and say, “Who are these Jewish people?” I would explain the photos were of my family. I did my DNA—I’m 30 percent Jewish and zero North American. I knew Grandma was, or so I thought, Indian, Scottish, and African. The Jewish bit was a big surprise, but one of the first synagogues in the States was in Charleston. Supposedly Smalls is from Smallstein, a Jewish merchant. DNA is taking us places we thought we would never go.

Every square inch of your apartment is filled with memorabilia. What piece is on your mind at the moment?
Toni Morrison invited me to go with her when she received the Nobel Prize, and because I had just opened the restaurant, I couldn’t get away. So as a gift, two weeks later this plaque arrived. She wrote, “To Alexander, with pleasure,” because I wasn’t able to be there. When she passed, I posted it on Instagram, and I think about it here, a lot.

You’ve opened a series of lauded restaurants, but you won your first James Beard Award in 2018 for the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, which you cowrote with your mentee, the chef JJ Johnson. What did that recognition mean to you?
The James Beard Award represents validation for a career that has been expansive over thirty years, and has been mostly ignored by the establishment. Still, I didn’t get into this profession to win awards—I got into it because I had a passion for it.

Yet here you are with a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard.
Life is funny that way! I’m passionate about what I decide to pursue. Even with writing, it comes to me like a song—if I have the first two words, everything else just flows. I bring the same insights, instincts, and talents to food that I bring to music.

Your new book departs from your past cookbooks—comfort foods are found under “Spirituals,” and audacious mains like oven-fried baby chickens with hot mustard apricot jam are listed under “Divas,” with an accompanying playlist.
In [my first cookbook] Grace the Table, I was introducing myself, and I was doing so in the arms of my ancestors and the growing-up experience. Take the lamb meat loaf recipe: My mother used to say, “Hide half the kitchen—that boy puts every ingredient in everything he makes,” but that was my process. In Between Harlem and Heaven, I was defining a culinary concept that I had created based on an expanded narrative of Lowcountry cooking that I call “Southern Revival” cooking. I follow the slave routes, and the course of Africans on five continents, and how their cooking techniques and ingredients changed food. With Meals, Music, and Muses, I’m at the point where I can break the rules. This book allows music to curate the culinary experience. None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen. I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.

That view informed your music project too. What served as the impetus behind The African American Songbook, Volume I?
My great concern was the extinction of African American song practices and music. Jazz is dying a slow death. More frightening and uncomfortable to me is the death of the Negro spiritual—the creative genius of enslaved people who were not allowed to gather unless it was about religion. This has rested on my heart for years, and I wondered what I could do about it. So I teamed up with two extraordinary producers, Robert Sadin and Ulysses Owens Jr., and I’m taking Negro spirituals and creating a modern setting for them. I’m taking them out of the gospel church idiom and putting them in a jazz landscape.


The Unsung Influence of Restaurateur Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls has crammed his corner apartment in Harlem with color—leopard-print cushions dot yellow couches, and jewel-colored drapes from his travels in Ghana sweep the floor—creating a warmth that matches the acclaimed chef and restaurateur’s welcome. As he enters his kitchen, dubbed his “laboratory,” to prepare something to eat, classical music at turns lulls and roars, apropos—his first act as a baritone earned him a Grammy and a Tony for a cast recording of Porgy and Bess. Smalls, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, traces both of those passions to his family’s roots there and in the Lowcountry, and the heritage coastal recipes he was raised on.

photo: Justin Bettman

As Smalls, now sixty-eight, traveled the world performing arias as a young man, he began taking culinary classes and eventually opened his own catering company. His first restaurant, Café Beulah, debuted in New York in 1994, and with it and each successive opening (including the Cecil, hailed as Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America”) and cookbook (such as the James Beard Award–snagging Between Harlem and Heaven), he has sought to emphasize what he calls “Southern Revival” cooking, and to champion the contributions of people of the African diaspora. In February, Smalls releases his latest cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, and a passion-project album, The African American Songbook, Volume I, both of which continue to cement his legacy as an undersung hero of music, food, culture, and history.

You’ve been called a culinary historian, a foodways preservationist, and a social minister. How do you define yourself?
I am a culinary activist for the African diaspora—people of color who essentially had been pushed out and suppressed in the story line of America’s great culinary tradition. But at the heart of it all I’m an artist—a raconteur. I love telling stories, no matter the medium.

That includes stories of your ancestors—the photos of them on your wall here at home once adorned the walls of Café Beulah.
These people made me who I am. This is my aunt Laura she was my first piano teacher in Spartanburg. This is my father—he was about twelve years old here, and he was trying to be grown, wearing fake glasses. [Laughs.] For years our family thought we had Cherokee in our blood. When I opened Café Beulah, customers would come in and say, “Who are these Jewish people?” I would explain the photos were of my family. I did my DNA—I’m 30 percent Jewish and zero North American. I knew Grandma was, or so I thought, Indian, Scottish, and African. The Jewish bit was a big surprise, but one of the first synagogues in the States was in Charleston. Supposedly Smalls is from Smallstein, a Jewish merchant. DNA is taking us places we thought we would never go.

Every square inch of your apartment is filled with memorabilia. What piece is on your mind at the moment?
Toni Morrison invited me to go with her when she received the Nobel Prize, and because I had just opened the restaurant, I couldn’t get away. So as a gift, two weeks later this plaque arrived. She wrote, “To Alexander, with pleasure,” because I wasn’t able to be there. When she passed, I posted it on Instagram, and I think about it here, a lot.

You’ve opened a series of lauded restaurants, but you won your first James Beard Award in 2018 for the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, which you cowrote with your mentee, the chef JJ Johnson. What did that recognition mean to you?
The James Beard Award represents validation for a career that has been expansive over thirty years, and has been mostly ignored by the establishment. Still, I didn’t get into this profession to win awards—I got into it because I had a passion for it.

Yet here you are with a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard.
Life is funny that way! I’m passionate about what I decide to pursue. Even with writing, it comes to me like a song—if I have the first two words, everything else just flows. I bring the same insights, instincts, and talents to food that I bring to music.

Your new book departs from your past cookbooks—comfort foods are found under “Spirituals,” and audacious mains like oven-fried baby chickens with hot mustard apricot jam are listed under “Divas,” with an accompanying playlist.
In [my first cookbook] Grace the Table, I was introducing myself, and I was doing so in the arms of my ancestors and the growing-up experience. Take the lamb meat loaf recipe: My mother used to say, “Hide half the kitchen—that boy puts every ingredient in everything he makes,” but that was my process. In Between Harlem and Heaven, I was defining a culinary concept that I had created based on an expanded narrative of Lowcountry cooking that I call “Southern Revival” cooking. I follow the slave routes, and the course of Africans on five continents, and how their cooking techniques and ingredients changed food. With Meals, Music, and Muses, I’m at the point where I can break the rules. This book allows music to curate the culinary experience. None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen. I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.

That view informed your music project too. What served as the impetus behind The African American Songbook, Volume I?
My great concern was the extinction of African American song practices and music. Jazz is dying a slow death. More frightening and uncomfortable to me is the death of the Negro spiritual—the creative genius of enslaved people who were not allowed to gather unless it was about religion. This has rested on my heart for years, and I wondered what I could do about it. So I teamed up with two extraordinary producers, Robert Sadin and Ulysses Owens Jr., and I’m taking Negro spirituals and creating a modern setting for them. I’m taking them out of the gospel church idiom and putting them in a jazz landscape.


The Unsung Influence of Restaurateur Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls has crammed his corner apartment in Harlem with color—leopard-print cushions dot yellow couches, and jewel-colored drapes from his travels in Ghana sweep the floor—creating a warmth that matches the acclaimed chef and restaurateur’s welcome. As he enters his kitchen, dubbed his “laboratory,” to prepare something to eat, classical music at turns lulls and roars, apropos—his first act as a baritone earned him a Grammy and a Tony for a cast recording of Porgy and Bess. Smalls, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, traces both of those passions to his family’s roots there and in the Lowcountry, and the heritage coastal recipes he was raised on.

photo: Justin Bettman

As Smalls, now sixty-eight, traveled the world performing arias as a young man, he began taking culinary classes and eventually opened his own catering company. His first restaurant, Café Beulah, debuted in New York in 1994, and with it and each successive opening (including the Cecil, hailed as Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America”) and cookbook (such as the James Beard Award–snagging Between Harlem and Heaven), he has sought to emphasize what he calls “Southern Revival” cooking, and to champion the contributions of people of the African diaspora. In February, Smalls releases his latest cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, and a passion-project album, The African American Songbook, Volume I, both of which continue to cement his legacy as an undersung hero of music, food, culture, and history.

You’ve been called a culinary historian, a foodways preservationist, and a social minister. How do you define yourself?
I am a culinary activist for the African diaspora—people of color who essentially had been pushed out and suppressed in the story line of America’s great culinary tradition. But at the heart of it all I’m an artist—a raconteur. I love telling stories, no matter the medium.

That includes stories of your ancestors—the photos of them on your wall here at home once adorned the walls of Café Beulah.
These people made me who I am. This is my aunt Laura she was my first piano teacher in Spartanburg. This is my father—he was about twelve years old here, and he was trying to be grown, wearing fake glasses. [Laughs.] For years our family thought we had Cherokee in our blood. When I opened Café Beulah, customers would come in and say, “Who are these Jewish people?” I would explain the photos were of my family. I did my DNA—I’m 30 percent Jewish and zero North American. I knew Grandma was, or so I thought, Indian, Scottish, and African. The Jewish bit was a big surprise, but one of the first synagogues in the States was in Charleston. Supposedly Smalls is from Smallstein, a Jewish merchant. DNA is taking us places we thought we would never go.

Every square inch of your apartment is filled with memorabilia. What piece is on your mind at the moment?
Toni Morrison invited me to go with her when she received the Nobel Prize, and because I had just opened the restaurant, I couldn’t get away. So as a gift, two weeks later this plaque arrived. She wrote, “To Alexander, with pleasure,” because I wasn’t able to be there. When she passed, I posted it on Instagram, and I think about it here, a lot.

You’ve opened a series of lauded restaurants, but you won your first James Beard Award in 2018 for the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, which you cowrote with your mentee, the chef JJ Johnson. What did that recognition mean to you?
The James Beard Award represents validation for a career that has been expansive over thirty years, and has been mostly ignored by the establishment. Still, I didn’t get into this profession to win awards—I got into it because I had a passion for it.

Yet here you are with a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard.
Life is funny that way! I’m passionate about what I decide to pursue. Even with writing, it comes to me like a song—if I have the first two words, everything else just flows. I bring the same insights, instincts, and talents to food that I bring to music.

Your new book departs from your past cookbooks—comfort foods are found under “Spirituals,” and audacious mains like oven-fried baby chickens with hot mustard apricot jam are listed under “Divas,” with an accompanying playlist.
In [my first cookbook] Grace the Table, I was introducing myself, and I was doing so in the arms of my ancestors and the growing-up experience. Take the lamb meat loaf recipe: My mother used to say, “Hide half the kitchen—that boy puts every ingredient in everything he makes,” but that was my process. In Between Harlem and Heaven, I was defining a culinary concept that I had created based on an expanded narrative of Lowcountry cooking that I call “Southern Revival” cooking. I follow the slave routes, and the course of Africans on five continents, and how their cooking techniques and ingredients changed food. With Meals, Music, and Muses, I’m at the point where I can break the rules. This book allows music to curate the culinary experience. None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen. I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.

That view informed your music project too. What served as the impetus behind The African American Songbook, Volume I?
My great concern was the extinction of African American song practices and music. Jazz is dying a slow death. More frightening and uncomfortable to me is the death of the Negro spiritual—the creative genius of enslaved people who were not allowed to gather unless it was about religion. This has rested on my heart for years, and I wondered what I could do about it. So I teamed up with two extraordinary producers, Robert Sadin and Ulysses Owens Jr., and I’m taking Negro spirituals and creating a modern setting for them. I’m taking them out of the gospel church idiom and putting them in a jazz landscape.


The Unsung Influence of Restaurateur Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls has crammed his corner apartment in Harlem with color—leopard-print cushions dot yellow couches, and jewel-colored drapes from his travels in Ghana sweep the floor—creating a warmth that matches the acclaimed chef and restaurateur’s welcome. As he enters his kitchen, dubbed his “laboratory,” to prepare something to eat, classical music at turns lulls and roars, apropos—his first act as a baritone earned him a Grammy and a Tony for a cast recording of Porgy and Bess. Smalls, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, traces both of those passions to his family’s roots there and in the Lowcountry, and the heritage coastal recipes he was raised on.

photo: Justin Bettman

As Smalls, now sixty-eight, traveled the world performing arias as a young man, he began taking culinary classes and eventually opened his own catering company. His first restaurant, Café Beulah, debuted in New York in 1994, and with it and each successive opening (including the Cecil, hailed as Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America”) and cookbook (such as the James Beard Award–snagging Between Harlem and Heaven), he has sought to emphasize what he calls “Southern Revival” cooking, and to champion the contributions of people of the African diaspora. In February, Smalls releases his latest cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, and a passion-project album, The African American Songbook, Volume I, both of which continue to cement his legacy as an undersung hero of music, food, culture, and history.

You’ve been called a culinary historian, a foodways preservationist, and a social minister. How do you define yourself?
I am a culinary activist for the African diaspora—people of color who essentially had been pushed out and suppressed in the story line of America’s great culinary tradition. But at the heart of it all I’m an artist—a raconteur. I love telling stories, no matter the medium.

That includes stories of your ancestors—the photos of them on your wall here at home once adorned the walls of Café Beulah.
These people made me who I am. This is my aunt Laura she was my first piano teacher in Spartanburg. This is my father—he was about twelve years old here, and he was trying to be grown, wearing fake glasses. [Laughs.] For years our family thought we had Cherokee in our blood. When I opened Café Beulah, customers would come in and say, “Who are these Jewish people?” I would explain the photos were of my family. I did my DNA—I’m 30 percent Jewish and zero North American. I knew Grandma was, or so I thought, Indian, Scottish, and African. The Jewish bit was a big surprise, but one of the first synagogues in the States was in Charleston. Supposedly Smalls is from Smallstein, a Jewish merchant. DNA is taking us places we thought we would never go.

Every square inch of your apartment is filled with memorabilia. What piece is on your mind at the moment?
Toni Morrison invited me to go with her when she received the Nobel Prize, and because I had just opened the restaurant, I couldn’t get away. So as a gift, two weeks later this plaque arrived. She wrote, “To Alexander, with pleasure,” because I wasn’t able to be there. When she passed, I posted it on Instagram, and I think about it here, a lot.

You’ve opened a series of lauded restaurants, but you won your first James Beard Award in 2018 for the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, which you cowrote with your mentee, the chef JJ Johnson. What did that recognition mean to you?
The James Beard Award represents validation for a career that has been expansive over thirty years, and has been mostly ignored by the establishment. Still, I didn’t get into this profession to win awards—I got into it because I had a passion for it.

Yet here you are with a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard.
Life is funny that way! I’m passionate about what I decide to pursue. Even with writing, it comes to me like a song—if I have the first two words, everything else just flows. I bring the same insights, instincts, and talents to food that I bring to music.

Your new book departs from your past cookbooks—comfort foods are found under “Spirituals,” and audacious mains like oven-fried baby chickens with hot mustard apricot jam are listed under “Divas,” with an accompanying playlist.
In [my first cookbook] Grace the Table, I was introducing myself, and I was doing so in the arms of my ancestors and the growing-up experience. Take the lamb meat loaf recipe: My mother used to say, “Hide half the kitchen—that boy puts every ingredient in everything he makes,” but that was my process. In Between Harlem and Heaven, I was defining a culinary concept that I had created based on an expanded narrative of Lowcountry cooking that I call “Southern Revival” cooking. I follow the slave routes, and the course of Africans on five continents, and how their cooking techniques and ingredients changed food. With Meals, Music, and Muses, I’m at the point where I can break the rules. This book allows music to curate the culinary experience. None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen. I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.

That view informed your music project too. What served as the impetus behind The African American Songbook, Volume I?
My great concern was the extinction of African American song practices and music. Jazz is dying a slow death. More frightening and uncomfortable to me is the death of the Negro spiritual—the creative genius of enslaved people who were not allowed to gather unless it was about religion. This has rested on my heart for years, and I wondered what I could do about it. So I teamed up with two extraordinary producers, Robert Sadin and Ulysses Owens Jr., and I’m taking Negro spirituals and creating a modern setting for them. I’m taking them out of the gospel church idiom and putting them in a jazz landscape.


The Unsung Influence of Restaurateur Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls has crammed his corner apartment in Harlem with color—leopard-print cushions dot yellow couches, and jewel-colored drapes from his travels in Ghana sweep the floor—creating a warmth that matches the acclaimed chef and restaurateur’s welcome. As he enters his kitchen, dubbed his “laboratory,” to prepare something to eat, classical music at turns lulls and roars, apropos—his first act as a baritone earned him a Grammy and a Tony for a cast recording of Porgy and Bess. Smalls, a native of Spartanburg, South Carolina, traces both of those passions to his family’s roots there and in the Lowcountry, and the heritage coastal recipes he was raised on.

photo: Justin Bettman

As Smalls, now sixty-eight, traveled the world performing arias as a young man, he began taking culinary classes and eventually opened his own catering company. His first restaurant, Café Beulah, debuted in New York in 1994, and with it and each successive opening (including the Cecil, hailed as Esquire’s “Best New Restaurant in America”) and cookbook (such as the James Beard Award–snagging Between Harlem and Heaven), he has sought to emphasize what he calls “Southern Revival” cooking, and to champion the contributions of people of the African diaspora. In February, Smalls releases his latest cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen, and a passion-project album, The African American Songbook, Volume I, both of which continue to cement his legacy as an undersung hero of music, food, culture, and history.

You’ve been called a culinary historian, a foodways preservationist, and a social minister. How do you define yourself?
I am a culinary activist for the African diaspora—people of color who essentially had been pushed out and suppressed in the story line of America’s great culinary tradition. But at the heart of it all I’m an artist—a raconteur. I love telling stories, no matter the medium.

That includes stories of your ancestors—the photos of them on your wall here at home once adorned the walls of Café Beulah.
These people made me who I am. This is my aunt Laura she was my first piano teacher in Spartanburg. This is my father—he was about twelve years old here, and he was trying to be grown, wearing fake glasses. [Laughs.] For years our family thought we had Cherokee in our blood. When I opened Café Beulah, customers would come in and say, “Who are these Jewish people?” I would explain the photos were of my family. I did my DNA—I’m 30 percent Jewish and zero North American. I knew Grandma was, or so I thought, Indian, Scottish, and African. The Jewish bit was a big surprise, but one of the first synagogues in the States was in Charleston. Supposedly Smalls is from Smallstein, a Jewish merchant. DNA is taking us places we thought we would never go.

Every square inch of your apartment is filled with memorabilia. What piece is on your mind at the moment?
Toni Morrison invited me to go with her when she received the Nobel Prize, and because I had just opened the restaurant, I couldn’t get away. So as a gift, two weeks later this plaque arrived. She wrote, “To Alexander, with pleasure,” because I wasn’t able to be there. When she passed, I posted it on Instagram, and I think about it here, a lot.

You’ve opened a series of lauded restaurants, but you won your first James Beard Award in 2018 for the cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven, which you cowrote with your mentee, the chef JJ Johnson. What did that recognition mean to you?
The James Beard Award represents validation for a career that has been expansive over thirty years, and has been mostly ignored by the establishment. Still, I didn’t get into this profession to win awards—I got into it because I had a passion for it.

Yet here you are with a Grammy, a Tony, and a James Beard.
Life is funny that way! I’m passionate about what I decide to pursue. Even with writing, it comes to me like a song—if I have the first two words, everything else just flows. I bring the same insights, instincts, and talents to food that I bring to music.

Your new book departs from your past cookbooks—comfort foods are found under “Spirituals,” and audacious mains like oven-fried baby chickens with hot mustard apricot jam are listed under “Divas,” with an accompanying playlist.
In [my first cookbook] Grace the Table, I was introducing myself, and I was doing so in the arms of my ancestors and the growing-up experience. Take the lamb meat loaf recipe: My mother used to say, “Hide half the kitchen—that boy puts every ingredient in everything he makes,” but that was my process. In Between Harlem and Heaven, I was defining a culinary concept that I had created based on an expanded narrative of Lowcountry cooking that I call “Southern Revival” cooking. I follow the slave routes, and the course of Africans on five continents, and how their cooking techniques and ingredients changed food. With Meals, Music, and Muses, I’m at the point where I can break the rules. This book allows music to curate the culinary experience. None of the recipes in this book are heirlooms—this is not your mama’s kitchen. I’m older, I have a view, and now I’m presenting that to you.

That view informed your music project too. What served as the impetus behind The African American Songbook, Volume I?
My great concern was the extinction of African American song practices and music. Jazz is dying a slow death. More frightening and uncomfortable to me is the death of the Negro spiritual—the creative genius of enslaved people who were not allowed to gather unless it was about religion. This has rested on my heart for years, and I wondered what I could do about it. So I teamed up with two extraordinary producers, Robert Sadin and Ulysses Owens Jr., and I’m taking Negro spirituals and creating a modern setting for them. I’m taking them out of the gospel church idiom and putting them in a jazz landscape.


Watch the video: Τεστ POWEPOINT standar 2 (November 2021).