If Youre Not Doing Something You Love, Then Stop Right Now
Roblé Ali has quickly become one of the most recognizable chefs and one of the very few young African Americans in the culinary world with national acclaim. The charismatic chef has provided his services to some of todays most notable individuals, including President Barack Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, John Legend, Jack Nicholson, Michael Jackson and Vanessa Williams to name a few.
After working for a number of high-profile chefs in New York City, Chef Roblé realized it was time to go out on his own and launched his own catering business, Roblé & Co. With his unique team of talented chefs and event producers, he creates captivating, one-of-a-kind dining experiences for high-end clientele across the country. The launch of his business was captured in Bravos culinary docudrama, "Chef Roblé & Co."
In addition to his catering company, Roblé is currently working on multiple projects, including an upcoming fragrance, wine, restaurant, book and apparel line, in addition to numerous philanthropic efforts. Here, he explains why he doesnt follow the competition and instead prioritizes his relationships with customers and colleagues.
While you were building your business, what challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Securing clientele was the main obstacle for me. I tackled this by keeping track of everyone I met and maintaining a thorough database. Dont just forget people keep a log, as they could be future clients of yours.
Other than keeping a database, do you have any tips for networking and building professional relationships?
Be consistent: The service you provide to customers should never falter.
Be dependable: Always follow through with your contacts, customers and employees treat everybody with the same respect.
Be as outgoing as you can: Really push yourself to get out there to check out a new event and meet new people.
How do you define success?
If you are happy with whatever it is that you are doing, then you are a success. If youre happy delivering seashells, then youre successful.
Whats helped sustain your companys success?
Communicating with customers is a key element of success for me. Whetherits simply sending a note saying, Happy New Year or Welcome to Spring: Check out the fruits that are now in season, staying in touch with your customers is essential so your customers dont forget about the service you provide. Social media is another way to communicate with customers, e.g., snapping pictures of something Ive cooked and posting it to Instagram. And all of this is free!
What are your tips for dealing with competition in your industry?
You need to make bold moves in order to stay above the competition so you dont have to compete. Im a creative person, and I dont want my creations based off of what other people are doing or saying. I want to be the trendsetter and taste maker. One example I give is that most chefs have a cookbook, but there are other ways to stand out and be successful. I didnt want to release a cookbook just like everyone else. This year, Im opening up my own wine company from Napa, CA. Its really about finding that white space. Tackle something new and different.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to start their own business?
Is there a particular supply you need for your business to succeed?
I always need Sharpies in several colors. Youll always see several Sharpies sticking out of my chef jacket pocket. I use them mainly for labeling products/dishes. Its a way for me and my team to distinguish whats what in our kitchen.
For example, a green-marked item in the refrigerator means that the food/dish is untouched. If someone has opened it, its marked with a blue Sharpie. The color coding helps me stay organized and keeps the quality/freshness of our food. I also love the P-touch label maker we label all our dry foods with the P-touch.
For more insights and inspiration from Roblé Ali, follow him on Twitter at @chefroble.