Photo credit: Jonathan Mannion

As Christmas quickly approaches and many rush to get last minute gifts for under the tree, the chefs of the house work on their plans for the perfect Christmas meal.

International cooking sensation Chef Roblé Ali is known for taking traditional meals and making them into beautiful cuisine. Rolling out caught up with Ali to find out what exactly needed to make Christmas dinner worthwhile.

You’ve had much success since you found your purpose. How do you stay ahead of the competition?
Honestly, I don’t compete with anyone else. I don’t see the competition. As long as I keep challenging myself and stay focused, it brings success. If I’m worried about my competition, I’m not seeing all the opportunities coming my way. So I just stay focused.

How do you start your day?
It’s usually a lot of emails, texts messages, and phone calls. I eat fruit, and water and then I get going. It really just depends. None of my days are the same routine. I like that. I’m in different cities cooking different food for different people. I don’t like repetitive things, so I think I’ve designed my life not to be repetitive.

When did you realize you needed to build a team around you?
It was a gradual thing. I picked up people along the way. As I needed people, they were always there. I never had to look hard. Whether it was God or the universe, they were always right in front of me. 

For the holiday season, what are some tips you can share with home chefs that will be entertaining in their homes to help win guests over? 
Of course, I’m expected to cook for the holidays. I like to switch it up for Christmas and not do a repeat of Thanksgiving. I don’t want to see one single turkey. This year, I’m going to do a good amount of seafood: salmon, lobster mac and cheese. I just did a piece with Walmart, and they have these roasted chickens that are under $5, and they’re extremely delicious, so I’m going to have those, as well. So getting one of those chickens is something I recommend. This year, I’m going to be in a kitchen I’ve never cooked in before, in California, so I’ll also have my chef toolkit. It’s literally a toolbox. I hate being unprepared, so it’s best to have that at all times.

What are some chef essentials for the kitchen?
Besides the chef toolkit, I really love a nice rubber spatula. They’re really good for mixing up food and of course, cleaning out a bowl to make sure you’re not wasting anything. Just like cake batter, you can lick it too if you want, but the spatula is necessary. I also have a Microplane zester. It’s very useful. You can shred cheese and make snow with it. It’s also very good for zesting citrus fruits, which I use all the time. I like to finish my potato salad with a little bit of lemon zest to bring some brightness and citrus aroma to it. The same thing when I make lemonade: I use it to zest the lemon. The flavor of the lemon is really in the peel, more than even in the juice. 

So you’re going to California for the holidays. Is this for family or work?
This is family. My mom and my sisters are out there. Everyone left me in New York. Which is fine, because it’s cold and snow is on the ground here in New York so I can’t wait to get out to California.

Nia Chantal

Journalist. Actress. Music Lover. Concert- Goer. Travel Enthusiast. Beauty Addict. Just a Southern girl living life to the fullest. Follow my journey on Instagram @niachantal