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Cooking up success in Alabama

June 1, 2006
Whether it’s in the kitchen or in the operatory, Dr. Alvin “Red” Stevens has found the recipe for happiness in the Deep South

Whether it’s in the kitchen or in the operatory, Dr. Alvin “Red” Stevens has found the recipe for happiness in the Deep South

Story by Kevin Henry, Editor. Cover and story photos by Ingrid Williams

While some of us have spent our weekends lounging around and enjoying some time off, Dr. Alvin “Red” Stevens has attempted to master the art of making vinaigrette. Rather than pick up a golf club or a fishing rod, Dr. Stevens picked up a whisk and pursued a dream of attending culinary school.

Pursuing that dream made for a hectic schedule for Dr. Stevens, a periodontist in Birmingham, Ala., who is a past president of the Alabama Dental Association and a recent recipient of the Birmingham Dental Society Dentist of the Year award. After working in his dental office Monday through Friday, Dr. Stevens spent Friday nights and Saturdays in the kitchen of the Highlands Bar and Grill (, working on the appetizer side of the kitchen. Combine this schedule with his teaching at Alabama-Birmingham’s dental school and you can see how his schedule kept him cooking - literally and figuratively.

“I’ve had an interest in cooking for several years, but had never had the opportunity. Gourmet Magazine rated the Highlands fifth in its list of the 50 best American restaurants, so it was an incredible opportunity for me,” Dr. Stevens explained. “It was truly the thrill of a lifetime.”

It provided some thrills for his staff as well.

“We were his guinea pigs sometimes,” laughed Dawn Jones (pictured at left, below), who has worked with Dr. Stevens for 16 of the 24 years she has been a dental assistant. “He would cook different dishes and bring them into the office and we would tell him which dish or which preparation we thought was best. It was great.”

It was also an opportunity for Dr. Stevens to see that, while dentistry and cooking may seem worlds apart, they actually have many similarities.

“I really think being a dentist and being involved with a restaurant are very similar. A busy restaurant is a good thing and a busy dental office is a good thing. I also think if you work hard at either profession, you’re going to succeed,” Dr. Stevens said. “The key to success at either job is having pride in what you do. In the restaurant, whether it’s the first or last dish of the day, it has to be top-quality. The same is true with dentistry. Every patient who comes into the practice must receive the highest quality of treatment.”

That quality not only extends to Dr. Stevens’ patient base, but also to his staff. Dr. Stevens describes himself as a tough, fair boss, and it’s clear his staff feels they have found a second home in his practice.

“The office is like a family,” Jones said. “We don’t dread coming to work. I feel like we’re like brothers and sisters in the practice. We can discuss our personal lives as well as work situations and we know others in the office will listen and care.”

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“I know there is a thin line between caring too much for your staff and being the boss, but I tend to get very close to my staff members,” Dr. Stevens added. “I’m the type of person who likes to sit down and talk and see what is going on. When someone in the office has a problem, we rally around that person and give him or her support.”

In addition to the close ties between doctor and staff, Dr. Stevens is adamant about having a personal relationship between patients and members of his practice.

“I don’t feel we could ever do too much for our patients,” Dr. Stevens said. “If a patient is in the hospital or needs something, we consider that patient a friend and we do what we can to support him or her. I want patients to know that my staff and I will be here for them. I believe patients will come back because they like the way they are treated here.

“We always try to do what is best for each patient,” he continued. “An 83-year-old patient has to be treated differently than a 50-year-old. There is never one rule that applies to all situations. You have to gear your treatment and thinking for each individual.”

“We like for patients to be comfortable while they’re here,” Jones added. “We know people like it here because we will see them after hours in a restaurant or at a movie and they’ll come over and talk to us. It’s very gratifying that our patients think of us as friends.

“We’re an open, honest practice, and Dr. Stevens is about the most honest individual I’ve ever come across,” she continued. “He’s a fair, honest man and a fine periodontist. I’m grateful to work here and for such a fine man.”

Contact information for Dr. Alvin “Red” Stevens
400 Century Park S., Ste. 200
Birmingham, AL 35226
(205) 822-3222