Last week, Bravo announced that it was producing a reality show with Roblé Ali, a budding Brooklyn caterer whom some have called the “hip-hop chef.” We soon discovered that the moniker “Hip-Hop Chef” is a registered trademark. So If Roblé Ali isn’t the hip-hop chef, who exactly is he? Aside from being the consulting chef at Avenue, he’s catered parties at record executive Kevin Liles’s mansion in Jersey and Damon Dash’s studio, and he’s served his “comfort food with a global perspective” at a launch party for 50 Cent’s cologne. He tells us he’s mostly on the job during those events, but Avenue is a different story. “If it’s slow in the kitchen, I can just go upstairs and just hang out,” he says. Or he can just stay in the kitchen with Lindsay Lohan! Here’s Roblé on the club’s high concentration of celebrities and lovely ladies, the whole hip-hop-chef thing, and also his friend Chris Santos’s follow-up to Stanton Social.
So how did the whole “hip-hop chef” thing get started?
Apparently there’s this chef out there, Cookin’ I-Can’t-Remember [Cookin’ Tye], and he trademarked the name Hip-Hop Chef. When the press release went out about my Bravo show, a lot of writers Googled me and they saw a video of this hip-hop-themed cooking show that I taped with a good friend of mine three or four years ago. We shopped it around and nothing happened with it. They saw there was hip-hop there and they slapped this label on me, but I’m just Chef Roblé — I’m just a guy that likes to cook. The guy who trademarked the name “Hip-Hop Chef” can have it.
How did you get hooked up with Bravo, anyway?
My talent agency took a meeting with a production company called Redline. It was a creative meeting where the idea was to sit down and think about an idea for a show. I had the idea for Roblé & Co. for a year — I told them about it and a couple days later, we had a treatment that they shopped around. We got together with Bravo and shot a pilot. I signed a deal with them last week, but I’m not sure when we’re going to start shooting.
What have you been doing till now?
After culinary school I was at Abigail Kirsch on and off for five years. Chris Santos was the interim chef there, and when he left I went with him. I helped out with Stanton Social and have done some work with him at Beauty & Essex. I ran a restaurant for him, Mojo, as his chef de cuisine.
What’s Beauty & Essex going to be like? Any dishes you’re excited about?
Looks like the food will be bistro-style cooking presented in a shareable form … “modern-family-style,” I’d say. The food seems to be more sophisticated than the Stanton Social. The place is going to look freaking amazing — it’s like four times bigger than Stanton Social, two levels; it’s going to be the spot, it’s going to be sick. I believe they’re opening late October or early November, as far as I know.
As the chef at Avenue, do you get to meet many celebrities?
I’ve met everybody, dude; everybody comes there. Everybody from Sting … Johnny Depp came — he left a really good tip. I met Kanye there a couple of times. I’ve had Lindsay Lohan hanging out in the kitchen. You name it. Jack Nicholson … Leo DiCaprio basically lives there.
What was the most memorable encounter?
I was sitting there talking to this hot girl named Megan for ten minutes and I had no clue who she was, and I was talking to one of the waiters and I was like, “That girl’s really cute,” and he was like, “Yeah, don’t you know who that was? That’s Megan Fox, the Transformers girl.” I had no idea!
So you meet a lot of women there?
Yeah, I meet loads of ladies on the job. There’s always hot girls here because you got promoters and they bring models. You will never see a higher concentration of hot-looking women than at Avenue.
Do any of the celebrities have strange requests?
When Bono was here, he and his friends ate a ton of food. Somebody (I don’t know if it was him or someone at his table) wanted to have the steak with no garlic, but all the steak is marinated in garlic, so I had to run to the restaurant next door to get them to let me borrow a steak.
How many times a week do people ask you to get them into Avenue? How much pull do you have?
People will ask me maybe four times a week. I don’t even try [to get anyone in] anymore, unless it’s a group of hot girls or guys that I know are going to spend a lot of money. No one in Noah [Tepperberg]’s company has any pull except Rich or Wass.
Have any of your friends been turned away?
I walked up there the other night with eight people — it was all hot girls and a couple of guys that Noah and I knew, and a couple of random guys from out of town. They were dressed fine, but not especially nice, and Wass said, “I can do the girls but not the guys.” Even I am not above rejection.