Alkebulan, which is named after the original name for Africa, is a first of its kind food hall that launched at EXPO 2020 in Dubai, and which features 10 restaurant concepts from across the African continent.
Restaurants at the Dubai hall include African street food concept Afro Street; African styled contemporary chicken shack Chicken Coop; Choma BBQ; innovative African cuisine concept Penja; nose-to-tail concept Tasty Goat; and east African seafood concept Seven Seafood.
Alkebulan was created by chef Alexander Smalls to enable more people to try ‘the last untapped cuisine’. As well as providing a range of African food it also showcases local art and live music from across the continent.
It is owned by global hospitality agency TGP International, which has announced plans to take the format to the UK and the US. Part of the food hall’s larger mission is to provide new platforms for African chefs, who TGP says are wildly underrepresented in the industry, and create opportunities to help them thrive.
Food halls experienced a boom pre Covid and TGP says that post-pandemic the model remains an attractive option for restaurant brands. It says the projected growth opportunities for food-to-go prepared at food halls is set to reach a value of £22.6bn by 2024, a 47.7% increase from 2021.
“Due to our vast experience within the hospitality sector, we see the huge potential for African cuisine and are immensely proud to pave the way with the world’s first African dining hall,” says Simon Wright, founder and chairman at TGP International.
“With the concept performing so well in Dubai, it is evident that Alkebulan offers an incredible investment opportunity with unsurpassed potential.
“We see London and New York as the perfect markets to expand, putting Alkebulan on the map as a globally renowned destination for African cuisine.
“This is not just a dining destination but a community project that supports upcoming African talent and provides a platform for Africa’s next generation of creators. Not just in the kitchen.”
Alkebulan has been designed to allow African chefs to start their own businesses and runs an incubator program that provides support through coaching and mentoring as well as financially.
“Despite its rich culinary heritage, African cuisine has been overlooked and underestimated for many years. 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,” says Smalls.
“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 under privileged backgrounds.”
Smalls is co-owner of Harlem restaurants The Cecil, described as New York's first Afro-Asian-American restaurant, and Minton’s, which serves Low Country cuisine inspired by Smalls’ childhood. In 2019 he won a James Beard Award for his cookbook Between Harlem and Heaven.