Chef Ali is the vegan food-maker adding a little spice to a sustainably sacred life.
– KEYS SOULCARE
Chef Ali (or Alicia to their circle) is both a creature of habit and ever-evolving original. (But more on that later). The SoCal native, who now calls Philly home, is bringing a fresh take on the ancient wisdom surrounding movement, food, and finding inner peace. Through Ser by Ali, Ali is honoring their roots and proving that self-care is truly community care, one session at a time. Read on for our soulful and scrumptious chat with the chef.
WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT DO YOU DO?
I’ve been many people in my life, but all the versions of myself that I have come to know are actually quite different. Not only do they change based on a physical location or in relationships with specific people, but within myself. In the same year of age, in the same place, and more or less within the same relationships, I’m meeting myself again repeatedly, almost on a daily basis.. I think that’s exciting about life. I can say whatever happened today is ok, and I’ll try again tomorrow. It’s just continuous.
DOES YOUR PERSONAL PRACTICE OF TRANSFORMATION INFORM YOUR APPROACH TO YOUR PRACTICE?
It does because I am just a person of so many experiences. The common thread among [my] services is the sustainability of self. My language services are a pathway for communication, but we should think about language expansively, too. It’s not just our formal languages, but the language of the body, the language of energy, as well as the language of the stars, and that’s all connected to what I call the sustainability of self.
The sustainability of self is learning and enhancing things that I believe are already inherent to our human nature. My services are just tools. They come from many generations of people, from the child version of me, and from the truth of my spirit. What I teach are actually practices that have helped me in my own journey. I can’t say if you sign up for my Spanish class you’re going to heal some intergenerational wounds — that’s a huge statement — but in reality, that is what’s happening for a lot of my clients. It happens in my learning space because the way I’m teaching is my own soul’s work. I don’t know how everybody’s soul operates or how everybody’s spirit wants to engage, but I’m figuring out how mine does and I’m just there to host a space to support everyone having their own journey.
YOUR SPANISH LANGUAGE WORK IS INTENTIONALLY GENDER-INCLUSIVE AND CULTURALLY COMPETENT. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN AND WHY IS THAT IMPORTANT?
My language courses are culturally competent because the whole course accounts for the cultural backgrounds that are present. This includes the racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as regional areas. We discuss the ways in which the language is used by different communities, in different spaces, and where the language shifts to communicate something else. Just teaching someone how to say “hola” isn’t going to work everywhere in every situation. It’s a colonial mindset to think there is a recipe for energy exchanges, cultural interaction, or human interaction; like a specific template for a “proper” sentence structure that is going to work every time. That whole approach is colonial because it’s the same mindset that they used when spreading Spanish across the Americas as one blanket language to have control over all of these communities.
The gender-inclusive portion is because Spanish, French, Italian, and a lot of other languages operate in the gender binary. The gender binary is colonization and Spanish, French, [and so on] are the languages of the colonizer so, of course, with those languages came this gender imposed in the language. We have a feminine table like “la mesa,” but “el sofá,” the couch, is masculine — the same way that we’ve made colors like pink be feminine and blue be masculine. The way the gender binary operates is extremely oppressive because not only have we created categories for individuals — humans and non-humans — it’s now been spread across everything from colors, language, material, objects, and more. These languages should have always accounted for people outside of the gender binary and they didn’t. Slowly, more and more of a shift towards having language that is gender-inclusive or gender expansive is happening. In the Latinx community, using “Latinx” or “Latine” is now supposed to take place for Latino or Latina. When I’m teaching Spanish, my students are learning how and when to change the endings or the articles that accompany certain adjectives, nouns, or descriptions for a person so that it is either in the “x” or the “e.”
For example, “the friends” shouldn’t just be “los amigos” or “las amigas,” it can be “les amigx” or “les amigues.” This is the equivalent of “they” in English when speaking about groups of people; the default just be the gender-inclusive form of the word. The pushback will be, “oh, that’s not really Spanish,” or “that’s spelled incorrectly,” and the list goes on, but the same is true in all the languages because transphobia exists across the languages. That’s not because the language can’t adapt; it’s because certain people want to stay within the gender binary.
WHAT IS YOUR ULTIMATE VISION FOR YOUR SOUL’S WORK?
With the core of my work being the sustainability of self, my goal is to scale sustainably inwardly, if that makes sense. As I evolve, my work is going to evolve and we are going to have to do it cohesively.
WHEN DO YOU FEEL MOST CONNECTED TO YOUR HIGHEST SELF?
When I’m in a peak struggle. So that’s when I’m really calling on my highest self to ask, “What am I supposed to be doing right now?” I have to be in a borderline crisis. When I’m having a really intense struggle or new experience or challenge, I’m the most connected because that’s when I’m searching for light.
DO YOU HAVE ANY MANTRAS OR MOTIVATIONAL PHRASES THAT YOU FIND YOURSELF RETURNING TO OFTEN?
It’s always, “just breathe.” I start everything with a breath — I even open my Spanish courses with a shared breath. Breath is our main thing — it’s consistent until we are in the ground. We always have to remember to just breathe.
WE DEFINE LIGHTWORKERS AS THOSE THAT BRING AND SPREAD LIGHT AND POSITIVITY INTO THE WORLD. WHAT MAKES YOU A LIGHTWORKER?
When I was little, my dad said that I had powerful hands. That is a very literal, physical thing that I have, but even if one person in my life has felt the power of those hands, either through my food, through a hug, through a touch on the forehead, or whatever else, that’s it. Me shining my light? That is light work. It’s just being myself — not the watered-down or covered-up version — but the one entering a space or engaging with the world shining and living authentically.
How do you engage with your community and individuality? How do you stay connected to your highest self? Share your comments below.