Chef Aleem discusses healthy food choices and his cookbook with 2 Chainz


Chef Aleem understands the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The Atlanta native has used his culinary skills and platform to teach kids and parents about proper food choices.

Chef Aleem recently spoke with rolling out about his Cool Kids Cook foundation and his collaboration on a cookbook with 2 Chainz.

What inspired you to become a chef?

I can’t really say what inspired me. I was definitely attracted to the art. When I was young .. .before Food Network, cooking shows came on sporadically mostly on the weekend. I remember being intrigued. The shows held my attention. It didn’t necessarily make me want to run to the kitchen, but I was definitely drawn to it. I always had an interest in healthy lifestyles….alternative meds and eating properly although at the time I didn’t recognize the parallel. I became a father at a young age and I was committed to raising them on unprocessed food so that automatically put me in the kitchen.

At what point did you realize that you could make this a career?

While I was in culinary school, some of the administrators were asked by Brock Built, a local developer, to hire a caterer for their annual Christmas party. The front office thought enough of my talent to recommend me. I was nervous, but I arranged a tasting and they loved it and I got my first event feeding 300 people. I didn’t know much. I just knew I wanted to do it. I consulted with some of my chef instructors as to how I should approach pricing, staffing, menu, shopping, etc. From there, I hired some other students, used a friend’s kitchen and we worked nonstop for three days. The responses and the reactions to the food, and the level of professionalism was overwhelming. That experience, those reactions, the money I made, confirmed it all. I knew I had found at least one of my callings

What should every aspiring business owner know about opening a restaurant?

Location, location, location. It’s not easy and it doesn’t happen overnight. It’s not glamorous. It takes time and continued dedication and endless energy. By the same token, it is gratifying, rewarding, and satisfying and can support a desired lifestyle.

When did you become 2 Chainz’s personal chef?

Right before he became a mainstream artist, about six months before Drake’s Club Paradise Tour.

What was the process like of creating the cookbook with 2 Chainz?

For one, I rarely use recipes so that in itself presented a challenge and Def Jam wanted it simplified so the everyday cook/fan could duplicate 2 Chainz’s tour bus recipes. And, of course, the whole book had to fit inside a CD case.

The Black community often suffers from obesity. How do you maintain a healthy diet while on the go?

It’s not that complex. It’s more about being committed, staying active, utilizing some form of regular exercise. It means staying away from fast food and replacing sugary snacks and soda with fruits and water.

What advice do you give to parents about making proper food choices for their kids?

I cannot say it enough, stay away from fast foods as much as possible! When you shop, focus on the perimeter of your grocery store. The perimeter has all your perishables … your fresh fruits and vegetables .. .your healthier choices. Items that are in the middle have longer shelf life. Longer shelf life equates to processed food. Do not cook meals in the microwave. If you have to heat something, that’s OK. Lastly, develop your kids’ palates when they are young so they are accustomed to having fresh fruits and vegetables. Once they start with processed foods it’s difficult to undo.

What can we expect from you in 2015 and beyond?

A few things are in the works. There is a full-length cookbook that’s more in-depth and interactive. Expect to see a line of chef’s coats reflective of me. There is a YouTube channel coming to get more visuals out. I want to show our youth what chef life is all about, so I’m finalizing my nonprofit Cool Kids Cook. My nonprofit focuses on showing kids what culinary art is all about, how to make it a profession, or maybe even just feed yourself and your family properly.

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