Only days into the new year, two major cities are slated to get even more delicious.
Harlem-based Chef Alexander Small, the James Beard award-winning visionary of The Cecil and its sister restaurant Minton’s, is opening the world’s first African food hall, Alkebulan.
Small, a former opera singer turned culinary activist, debuted the concept at Expo 2020 Dubai in October 2021. Following an extremely positive global reception, Alkebulan will remain permanent in Dubai, with expansions in both Harlem and London.
Alkebulan, which is the oldest name for Africa, is envisioned as a cultural and culinary movement that celebrates the untapped cuisine of the African continent. Smalls curated the Alkebulan location in Dubai to offer elevent African chef-led concepts showcasing the diverse cuisines that Africa has to offer, from gourmet dishes and street bites to fusion fare. Local art and live music also amps up the cultural immersion at the food hall.
“Despite its rich culinary heritage, African cuisine has been overlooked and underestimated for many years,” said Chef Smalls. With Alkebulan, we look forward to bringing its diverse and spectacular culinary palates to the forefront by introducing a unique dining concept to two of the world’s most thriving food destinations.”
The concept aims to set the proverbial and physical table for Africa’s next generation of creators. Not just in the kitchen but on the stage, in the community, and the forefront of important social movements. Part of the food hall’s larger mission is to provide new platforms for African chefs, who are wildly underrepresented across the industry, and create opportunities to help them thrive.
“We aim to not only deliver a taste of Africa but offer a one stop destination that becomes a boiling pot of the various African cultures at the core of its 54 counties and offer opportunities to young culinary entrepreneurs from underprivileged backgrounds,” Small said. “We want to provide them space in the food halls to start their own businesses as part of an incubator program, providing support through coaching and mentoring as well as financially.”
A concept three decades in the making, Alkebulan is open to potential new investors. Even amidst a pandemic, the food hall model is considered an attractive business option as more restaurant brands tap into new creative ways to serve food and create culinary experiences.