He talks to BET.com about his catering business and life in front of the camera.
(Photo: Courtesy Bravo)
Next month, there will be a new chef cutting into Bravo's reality TV scene. With his upcoming series Chef Roblé & Co., Roblé Ali will take audiences behind the scenes as he and his crew cater for some of the swankiest events in the New York tri-state area.
"I'm catering parties for a wide swath of amazing people," Ali says. "Everyone from Kandi Buruss from The Real Housewives of Atlanta to Vanessa Williams to some really amazing socialites that you've never heard of that are very fun to watch. We take you from Brooklyn to uptown Manhattan to downtown Manhattan to the Jersey Shore. We're all over the place."
Ali, who's been pegged as the "hip hop chef," had been shopping the project about his new catering business for about a year before Bravo swooped it up to have it join the channel's popular roster of reality shows. In the series's first season, Ali and his team, which includes his older sister Jasmine, will put together some over-the-top events like a doggie wedding in the Hamptons, a Bollywood-inspired birthday party and a creepy carnival-themed birthday party. Ali points out that although it's not a cooking series, people will still get tips, recipes and other bonuses that will be sprinkled throughout the show and shared through the website and social media.
Ali credits his grandfather Jesse Harris, who worked as a professional chef, for catching an interest in food at a young age.
"He actually had an opportunity to work for President Kennedy, which was one of his proudest moments. He told me that story probably 30 times," Ali says. "So I got to watch him do some pretty cool stuff in the kitchen like jelly donuts. Man, that was awesome. A little kid and your grandfather's making jelly donuts? You're going to think he's the man."
So even though he attended the Culinary Institute of America, one of the top cooking schools in the country located just a county away from his Poughkeepsie, NY, hometown, and worked at notable restaurants like Restaurant Mojo, he later realized that running a restaurant on a day-to-day basis was not something he was meant to do. But over the years, Ali has developed an impressive list of celebrities he's catered for including President Clinton, Lady Gaga, Jay-Z and the late Michael Jackson.
"I don't like working in restaurants, that's why I chose to do catering," Ali says. "I don't like doing the same things every day. I don't like working in the same place every day. I have to be constantly challenged with something I've never done before otherwise I'll lose focus. That's not saying that in a couple years I won't open a nice little lounge where you can kick it after work and have a snack and some drinks with your friends and next thing you know it's four o'clock in the morning and you're stumbling home. I might do something like that."
Aside from filming the show, building up his new catering company and nurturing dreams about someday appearing on Saturday Night Live, Ali is also working on a collection of pots and pans, a line of chef's knives called Couture Cutlery and culinary-inspired street wear he hopes to launch during next year's Fall Fashion Week.
So with Thanksgiving around the corner, does the hip hop chef take the reins when he visits his family in Houston for the holidays, or does he like to relax and leave the event planning to someone else?
"It's only right," Ali says about holding things down in the kitchen. "If I don't cook, I get kicked out of the house. I'm expected to cook."
Always looking for ways to keep things fresh, he recalls a tasty — and fattening — spin on the traditional roasted turkey.
"I hate repetitive things so I always do something different every year. One year, I got a turkey and a bunch of smoked duck fat. I took a cajun spice rub and I infused that into the duck fat. Then I took the spice rub and a big old syringe and I injected it inside this turkey. Then I rubbed the turkey down with the same fat and roasted it in the oven. It had a lot of flavor, the skin crisps up and you make gravy out of that, too. It was one of the most epic turkey moments ever."
Catch the Chef Roblé & Co. premiere Sun., Dec. 4 at 10 PM ET on Bravo.