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  • 10 BEST PODCASTS OF 2021
  • New York Times
  • BEST FOOD PODCAST
  • James Beard Awards
  • Webby Awards

When Opera Rejected Alexander Smalls, He Opened A Restaurant

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Aug 08, 2022
When Opera Rejected Alexander Smalls, He Opened A Restaurant

After 15 years as an opera singer and winning a Grammy and a Tony, Alexander Smalls got turned down for a lead role at the Metropolitan Opera. He’d hit the same glass ceiling that held back many Black opera singers before him. He went home, drank a bottle of wine, and came to a realization: "I couldn't own an opera house, but I could own a restaurant." In the decades since, Alexander has served upscale Southern food in New York, researched the food of the African diaspora in the Americas, Asia, and beyond, and fused cuisines in award-winning cookbooks. His biggest project to date is an African food hall in Dubai, and he plans to open similar food halls around the world. Alexander shares his story with Dan, and also his food, when he cooks up his own spin on shrimp and grits.

The Sporkful production team includes Dan Pashman, Emma Morgenstern, Andres O'Hara, Johanna Mayer, Tracey Samuelson, and Jared O'Connell, with editing help this week from Tanaka Muvavarirwa.

Interstitial music in this episode by Black Label Music:

  • "Can You Dig It?” by Cullen Fitzpatrick
  • “When You’re Away” by Kenneth J. Brahmstedt
  • “Loud” by Bira
  • “Lowtown” by Black Label Productions
  • “Private Detective” by Cullen Fitzpatrick
  • “Brand New Day” by Jack Ventimiglia

Photos courtesy of Alexander Smalls and Dan Pashman. 

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