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Chef and restaurateur Alexander Smalls mixes music and meals in new cookbook

Alexander Smalls (Photo credit: Beatriz da Costa)

Alexander Smalls is a world-renowned chef, restaurateur, author and opera singer. He is known for elevating and translating the food of the African diaspora and African American kitchen into modern tastes. He is the visionary of the award-winning restaurant, The Cecil, and its sister restaurant, Minton’s.

Smalls spoke with rolling out about his new cookbook, Meals, Music, and Muses: Recipes From My African American Kitchen.

What inspired you to write this cookbook?

My life influences have been food and music. In this book, I saw an opportunity to bring both of these disciplines and great passions in my life together.

In the cookbook, you have your recipes separated by music genres. Why did you format the book that way? 

The genres really speak to the influences from particular periods of my life. It’s almost chronological. Jazz was such [an] incredible influence and Black music in general. Gospel spirituals [were influential] as a young boy growing up in the south. I had this really odd balance of classical music. I studied classical piano when I was 8 years old. My great aunt was a classical pianist and my uncle was a chef. I had all of these influences and thought, “I could tell my story through the intersections of jazz, gospel, spirituals, opera, divas, jukebox and dessert sweet serenades.” I thought [it was] a wonderful way to bring it all full circle.

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