Between Harlem and Heaven

In two of the most renowned and historic venues in Harlem, Alexander Smalls and JJ Johnson created unique takes on the Afro-Asian-American flavor profile. Their foundation was a collective of three decades of traveling the African diaspora, meeting and eating with chefs of color, and researching the wide reach of a truly global cuisine. Their inspiration took African, Asian, and African-American influences and melted these cuisines together to create a new flavor profile. They present here for the first time, over 100 recipes that go beyond just one place, taking you, as noted by The New Yorker, “somewhere between Harlem and heaven.”

This book branches far beyond “soul food” to explore the melding of Asian, African, and American flavors. The Afro Asian flavor profile is a window into the intersection of the Asian and African diaspora. An homage to this cultural culinary path and the grievances and triumphs along the way, Between Harlem and Heaven isn’t fusion, but a glimpse into a cuisine that made its way into the thick of Harlem’s cultural renaissance.

“This is more than just a cookbook. Alexander and JJ take us on a culinary journey through space and time that started more than 400 years ago, on the shores of West Africa. Through inspiring recipes that have survived the Middle Passage to seamlessly embrace Asian influences, this book is a testimony to the fact that food transcends borders.”

— Chef Pierre Thiam


Between Harlem and Heaven is a celebration of food, culture, and the historic legacy of proud people unsung. This is the story of resilience and reverence, of people farming and cooking from one continent to the other, making delicious flavors in every pot.”

— Ciecly Tyson

“If you’re anything like me, that hungry belly will interrupt your reading of the authors’ compelling narratives and propel you into the kitchen to whip up something new.” 

— Kimberly Masibay

Between Harlem and Heaven presents a captivatingly original cuisine. Afro-Asian-American cooking is packed with unique and delicious layers of flavor. These stories and recipes lay praise to the immense influence the African Diaspora has had on global cuisine.” 

— Sean Brock