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Roblé Ali – Risky Business

by  Jeanine Lewis on January 31, 2012
Roblé Ali – Risky Business

Culinary risk taker, chef Roblé Ali, has always followed his instincts. His creativity, business sense and internal voice have steered him into being one of the most recognized chefs in the country. Family has always played an intricate role in molding his career. From his grandfather to his sister, they have taught him a significant amount about the art of dish and the art of deal. His new show, "Chef Roblé & Co" on Bravo made its debut last December and was wildly popular with audiences. Raised a Houstonian but born a New Yorker of Somalian decent, Ali served up drama and innovation on and off the screen.

Ali remembers his grandfather making donuts when he was a kid. At the early age of 15, he was motivated to become a professional chef and worked in his first professional kitchen while in high school. He continued his studies at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York, where he honed his technical skills in cooking. Upon graduation, he became one of the youngest sous chefs at an elite New York catering company. After working under various cutting edge catering chefs in New York City, Ali was exposed to the best in the music industry catering for celebrities such as Russell Simons and Faith Evans with Michael Jackson also being one of his former clients. "He wanted curry chicken salad every day," Ali recalled of MJ's dish requests. Being a private chef to the stars prepared him well for high maintenance clients to come.

To explore a little more of his creative side and what matters when he is not in the kitchen, we got into a little question and answer period.

Question: How would you categorize your dishes? Are you drawn to more complex or simple dishes?

Chef Roblé: "More of a hybrid of both. [For example] South Curry Goat is a classically simple dish but I injected curry butter in the goat and grilled it. I vacuum-sealed a 175-degree bag, which pulled all the meat off the bone. I re-named it 'Goat in a Boat.' The full recipe is on Bravotv.com."

Question: What was the biggest culinary risk you've taken that truly paid off?

Chef Roblé: "I had a client who gave me a 48-hour notice to cater a party for 450 people and instructed me to only serve a pescetarian [fish and vegetables] menu. I made the decision to serve more of a well-rounded menu instead. The client was unhappy at first, but after getting great feedback from the guests, she thanked me for changing the menu."

In addition to taking smart risks, Ali’s international philanthropy efforts allow him to give back in a monumental way. As a Somali-American, he is part of the non-government organization (NGO), The African Future, a charity to feed Somalis.

Question: After describing yourself as 'the glue' of The African Future, what is their mission and what is your mission as a member?

Chef Roblé: "After the famine struck Somalia, the mission of the organization has changed to feed a million Somalians. We have members in Somalia now distributing food to the hungry. I want to use my popularity to raise money for the organization to help further their mission."

His dedication to his craft and his cultural roots drive him to create, lead and entertain through food. As the last episode delivered laughter, tears, and fireworks, we are all waiting anxiously for the announcement of a second season.  In addition, Atlanta can look forward to a collaboration that will bring Ali's creations to an exclusive tapas lounge downtown by mid-year.

With a passion for infusing energy into the food world and the talent to wow clients every time, this is just the beginning of what we can expect from Chef Roblé Ali.

For more information about Chef Roblé, the show and the team, visit http://www.bravotv.com.

Photo credits: Heidi Gutman/Bravo, Rene Cervantes/Bravo

Jeanine Lewis

Jeanine Lewis

Jeanine Lewis is a renaissance freelance writer. As an alumna of University of Washington, she has been published in a variety of subject matters. full bio

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