Chef Alexander Smalls

Alexander Smalls was the visionary co-owner of former restaurants, The Cecil and Minton’s. In their time, both were critically acclaimed restaurants and were located in the heart of NYC’s Harlem. Minton’s, the sexy supper club with live jazz, was praised for its Low Country cuisine inspired by Smalls’ childhood, as well as for the world-class music program that Smalls oversaw, honoring the club’s historic roots at the birthplace of bebop in the 1930’s. His award-winning restaurant, The Cecil, NYC’s first Afro-Asian-American restaurant, was named “Best New Restaurant in America” by Esquire in 2014.

Over the past three decades, the chef and restaurateur has traveled the world studying the cooking techniques and foodways of the African diaspora, leading up to his creation of The Cecil. As the former chef-owner of renowned restaurants including Café Beulah, Sweet Ophelia’s, and Shoebox Café, Smalls has received great acclaim in the restaurant scene, including cooking at the James Beard House, being named one of Zagat’s “NYC Restaurant Power Players You Need to Know” and being honored with the Legacy Award in 2014 by The Amsterdam News, one of the oldest African American newspapers in the country.

Smalls has appeared on a wide range of food and culinary platforms, with guest appearances on national TV, magazine and news programs. He has appeared on The Food Network on such shows as “Recipe for Success” and “Throwdown!” with Bobby Flay, and most recently on the ABC show “The Chew” with Chef Carla Hall.

In addition to his success in the culinary world, Smalls’ memoir and cookbook Grace the Table features recipes from his upbringing of Southern Revival cuisine. Between Harlem and Heaven is Smalls’ most recent book, which he co-wrote with Executive Chef Joseph ‘JJ’ Johnson, and features recipes and stories from The Cecil. He has another forthcoming book from Flatiron Books, which will focus on African American cookery. Smalls is also a world-renowned opera singer and the winner of both a Grammy Award and a Tony Award for the cast recording of Porgy and Bess, by George Gershwin, with the Houston Grand Opera.

Passionate about his involvement with non-profit organizations, he is on the Advisory Board of The Union Food Lab at Columbia University, and on the Board of Directors of The Harlem School of the Arts. Through his restaurants, he is involved in C-CAP (Careers through Culinary Arts Program). Both he and Dick Parsons were honored by C-CAP in 2014. Alexander is also a former board member and Artistic Director of Opus 118 at the Harlem School of Music.