Opera Singer Turned Restaurateur Alexander Smalls Discusses New Book

Chef Alexander Smalls will speak at the Decatur Book Festival virtually on Sept. 8.

Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls is a classically trained musician who became a renowned, professional opera singer. He’s also a James Beard Award-winning chef, a restaurateur, and cookbook author.

He will be appearing at the Decatur Book Festival to discuss his new volume, “Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes from My African American Kitchen.” Smalls will discuss his book virtually with “Local Palate” editor, Lia Grabowski Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.

Interview Highlights:

On changing careers from professional opera singer to restaurateur:

“I finally decided that whatever I was going to do professionally, I had to not only own a seat at the table, I needed to own the table. And that propelled me to open my first restaurant in 1994, Café Beulah,” said Smalls.

The restaurant was in New York City, specializing in Southern Revival cooking that combined Gullah and international cuisines. He owns two restaurants: The Cecil and its sister restaurant Minton’s. He serves as its co-owner and Executive Chef. The Cecil, NYC’s first Afro-Asian-American restaurant, was named “Best New Restaurant in America” by Esquire magazine in 2014.

On creating his new cookbook “Meals, Music, and Muses:”

“I look back at how the music and the food created every container for all of my experiences in life and continue to. Essentially I opened my first restaurant to take my kitchen public, to feed, and serve, and nurture the world. It is a theme that I feel resonates with me personally, but I also feel particularly with the African-American community. The two [music and food] were so accessible. I mean, you could make up a tune and clap your hands and slap your hip and hum your way to glory if you needed to. *laughs* And if you had something good to eat on that journey, it made it even better,” said Smalls.