Culinary Knock-Out

Recently, fans of Chopped were treated to a series of All-Star episodes, which included familiar names such as Jeff Mauro, Sunny Anderson, Elizabeth Falkner and Gavin Kaysen. Even judges from the show- Marc Murphy, Amanda Freitag, Scott Conant and Alex Guarnaschelli competed against one another! However, one name that was new to the Chopped competition was Laila Ali. Who knew that an athlete and champion of health and fitness could hold her own in the kitchen with established chefs? Despite not winning, she definitely earned respect from the competitors and gained new fans (including us) along the way. We recently caught up with Chef Laila to learn more about her passion for cooking.

Chef Laila Ali
Chef Laila Ali

FP: How did you get your start with cooking?

LA: I started cooking when I was 10 years old. My mother didn’t cook much so I started experimenting with whatever was in our pantry and fridge. I’ve always been a big eater so that’s where my motivation to make my own meals probably came from. Lol!

FP: Name some chefs that have inspired you.

LA: I actually don’t have any specific chefs that have inspired me, although I do love watching many of the personalities on TV. I find inspiration in so many ways from dishes at restaurants that I eat at, cooking magazines, cooking shows and foods that I like but want to make healthier.

FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped. What was the hardest ingredient to work with? 

LA: Being on Chopped was definitely one of the most exciting and challenging experiences I have had in a long time. I loved every moment of it! The hardest ingredient I was given was the “suckling goat.” I’ve never cooked goat and of course I haven’t butchered one before either. I probably wasted about four minutes staring and saying “the poor baby goat!” But then I snapped out of it and got back in the game.

FP: Oh the goat, how could anyone forget?! We felt for you…

We love the recipes (especially the dirty rice!) on your website. Do you have a favorite meal to cook for yourself and/or for guests?

LA: I have so many more dishes that I haven’t converted in to recipes yet. I think most of my friends and family appreciate my Creole dishes the most, mainly the Gumbo, Jambalaya and Shrimp Creole.

FP: That sounds delicious! We would love to try it one day!

When you go out to eat, what are some of your favorite places? 

LA: Some of my favorite places are Firefly (CA), Crustacean (CA), Chin Chin (NY) and Red Rooster (NY). For a quick bite, I like Tender Greens and California Chicken Cafe.

FP: We’re big fans of Red Rooster also! Since we’re NY’ers, we’ll have to check out Chin Chin in the near future. 

What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name 🙂

LA: I have a weakness for baked goods! Especially cakes and cobblers. I don’t bake and I am afraid to learn because that would be a dangerous skill for me to have.

FP: We totally agree! Who doesn’t have a weakness for baked goods?!

Thank you again for your time, Chef Laila. We wish you the best of luck in all your future endeavors! Who knows, we might catch you on Food Network again!

For more information on Laila Ali, visit http://www.lailaali.com/


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