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Chef Max Hardy: “Know yourself”

Know yourself — Find the culinary style you are good at and stay true to yourself. Of course, learn and experiment, grow your palate but find your trademark. Don’t Do it? — If it’s not your passion. — Many people think being a chef and restaurateur is glamorous, but it is a tough business with a lot of risks. As part of […]

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Know yourself — Find the culinary style you are good at and stay true to yourself. Of course, learn and experiment, grow your palate but find your trademark.

Don’t Do it? — If it’s not your passion. — Many people think being a chef and restaurateur is glamorous, but it is a tough business with a lot of risks.


As part of our series about the lessons from Inspirational Black Chefs & Restaurateurs, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Chef Max Hardy.

He is a Private Chef, Entrepreneur (Chef Max Miami catering company; Chef Max Designs — Chef Coats), Philanthropist (Founder One Chef Can 86 Hunger) and Author.

Chef Max began his culinary experience in the Culinary Arts Program at Wharton High School in Tampa, FL. Working under the program’s Executive Chef, Edward Bujarski, Chef Max began catering events in the Tampa community. Recognized for his exceptional culinary skills and his talent on and off the basketball court, Chef Max was awarded a scholarship to attend Johnson & Wales University in Miami, FL.

Chef Max Miami, Chef Max’s catering company, specializing in a range of recipes of American, Asian, Caribbean, French, and Kosher cuisine. Proving to be a success, Chef Max has been able to train and employ a number of chefs between Miami, New York, and Los Angeles. Chef Max’s clientele includes award winning Hip Hop and R&B artists, actors, professional athletes, and dignitaries like the Prince of Dubai and Prime Minister of Turks and Caicos.

From 2009–2014 Chef Max was the full-time personal chef for New York Knick Amar’e Stoudemire. During Chef Max Hardy’s tenure with New York Knick Amare Stoudmire, he co-authored a cookbook with Stoudemire released June 2014 called Cooking with Amar’e — 100 Easy Recipes for Pros and Rookies in the Kitchen.

Outside the kitchen, Chef Max created Chef Max Designs, a chef apparel line that gives a modern style to classic chef look. For more information on Chef Max Designs, please visit www.chefmaxdesigns.com.

Chef Max is also a philanthropist and founder of the One Chef Can 86 Hunger foundation. One Chef Can 86 Hunger is a not-for-profit organization that works toward raising awareness and fighting the hunger epidemic in America. With the help of its board and supporters, One Chef Can 86 Hunger has been working to raise funds to support their commitment to educating people about the hunger crisis in America and offering not only healthier but cost effective alternatives. The Foundation has also been able to introduce culinary arts to communities through its programming with schools and community centers including its culinary program with Opportunity Charter School in Harlem; in addition to lectures and panel discussions, giving students practical and fundamental knowledge of the wonderful world of culinary arts.

With the success of the program, in 2014, Chef Max was invited to join the board of directors for Opportunity Charter School. Winter of 2014, Chef Max officially joined the Culinary Council for Food Bank for New York City as an advocate to carry-out its mission and fight against hunger.

January 2014, Chef Max completed and finished as a runner-up for The Food Network’s Chopped and has been featured in Arise TV, Bon, Appétit, Essence Magazine Fox 5 Good Day New York, NBC’s thegrio.com, New York Post, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry Show and, WABC News.

Chef Max has also partnered with Rohan Marley to create a new cookbook “Stir It up” a coffee cook fusing amazing coffee flavors & 5 star culinary delights. Chef Hardy is currently working on a new restaurant “COOP” that will be part of Detroit Shipping Co, a Caribbean & Asian Fusion grilled chicken concept. His hard work and persistence has been the key to him reaching his success. Chef Max continues to excel in culinary arts and has no desire to stop — hoping with each dish he creates, people will be able to “taste his dedication to excellence in every bite.”

For additional information on Chef Max Hardy please visit www.chefmaxcelhardy.com


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to ‘get to know’ you a bit. Can you share with our readers a story about what inspired you to become a restauranteur or chef?

My first love was basketball, while attending high school, I was injured my junior year and was unable to play. During that time, Chef Burjaski came to the school and revamped our cooking program to a full Culinary Arts Program. I fell in love with it. I began with baking, making cookies and cinnamon rolls, and my skill grew from there. I started cooking at Ruby Tuesday after basketball practice and on the weekend. My passion continued to grow, and after a while, I gained a scholarship to attend Johnson & Wales University-North Miami and found a new love.

Do you have a specific type of food that you focus on? What was it that first drew you to cooking that type of food? Can you share a story about that with us?

My heart lies with the food from my mother’s homeland; she is Bahamian; my cooking style comes from seeing her and my family making Bahamian dishes in our home. Being a chef in Miami when my career first started, all my cooks were, Haitian, Cuban, and Puerto Rican soon they also helped inspire my culinary skills.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth. — Muhammad Ali

I love giving back to others; I love using my culinary skills to cook for those less fortunate. I started One Chef Can 86 Hunger, which is my foundation where I get to join underprivileged communities to cook for those in need and educate young students that are interested in learning to cook.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you since you became a chef or restauranteur? What was the lesson or take away you took out of that story?

While cooking in Dubai for The World Food Expo, serving Chicken & Waffles, I thought as it is common here in the US, it is something that is new to them. I created a RUM Vanilla Syrup to pair with the waffles. I’m thinking this is perfect, they’re going to love it! However, it is a dry country, and everyone was looking at me crazy! Like, what are you doing, and where did you get the rum? I can see people talking and pointing, I’m thinking they were excited to see something new, but they were pointing because it was offensive. Security came over and checked my station for rum and said I had to change my syrup, or they were going to call the police. I was so embarrassed! I quickly changed the dish lol, Shrimp Po’Boy it is.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? How did you overcome this obstacle?

In the beginning, it was tough being a Black chef when I was in culinary school because I didn’t see a lot of Black culinary students that looked like me. As I started getting into the industry, it was still a lack of Black chefs. It was hard to get to the next level, be accepted, and get the same opportunities as my counterparts. That is why I try to train and mentor young cooks. I try to use my platform to inspire Black culinarians.

In your experience, what is the key to creating a dish that customers are crazy about?

Keeping things consistent, I think the more you are consistent with flavors, plate presentation, the more you will keep customers happy.

Personally, what is the ‘perfect meal for you’?

I prefer a well-balanced meal, kale or spinach salad, oven-roasted chicken, couscous, sauteed onions, sauteed spinach, a glass of Pinot, and I’m in heaven. No Dessert for me!!

Are you working on any new or exciting projects now? What impact do you think this will have?

Yes! I’m currently working on a Cookbook, which I’m very excited about. With the culinary and cannabis industry constantly evolving, it will be an excellent cookbook for those looking to learn to integrate the two. Cookbook has been tested to do great things for the body, so I want to show my readers how to cook with it and have little fun while healing the body.

Do you have any advice for “up and coming” young chefs who are in need of guidance to become successful in the culinary world?

Take personal time each day, whether it’s 15 minutes or 1 hour, take a break. Take a vacation, chefs usually put our heads down and grind, but you have to learn to take a vacation because if you burn out, then you’re no good to anyone.

Also, find another passion or hobby. To cook is to serve, its essential to find something just for yourself. I love to get out on the golf course.

Never stop being a culinary student, keep reading, keep up on the latest trends, and be a trendsetter. Cook every meal like it is your last.

COVID-19 has been a trying time for all of us. How are you growing your business during COVID-19? What advice do you have for any chefs who are trying to stay relevant during this time?

During this time, I’ve been working on new recipes, new menu items. I’ve spent more time on social media, reaching out to a new customer base. I’m volunteering cooking for different foundations and helping the community who has supported me.

I advise chefs to give back to their community as much as possible. People in your community may be out of work right now; these are past patrons.

Thank you for all that. Now we are ready for the main question of the interview. What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me When I First Started as a Restauranteur or Chef” and why? Please share a story or an example for each.

You are not going to have a life!! — Food is your life. As a chef, you are married to the job; being a chef is very demanding with little personal time. It is early mornings and late evenings. All holidays you are grinding in the kitchen.

Take Great Care of yourself / Have Balance — It’s essential to create a good personal/work-life balance. Otherwise, you will burnout.

Learn to love the aspects of the career that aren’t fun — I love to be in the kitchen trying new recipes and educating others, but some things come with owning a business that you have to do to be successful.

Know yourself — Find the culinary style you are good at and stay true to yourself. Of course, learn and experiment, grow your palate but find your trademark.

Don’t Do it? — If it’s not your passion. — Many people think being a chef and restaurateur is glamorous, but it is a tough business with a lot of risks.

What’s the one dish people have to try if they visit your establishment?

Jerk Wings & the Caribbean Corn, two of my favorites! We make the jerk marinade inhouse, and Caribbean corn is a totally different experience.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

There’s so much hunger in this world — I would inspire the 86 Hunger Movement ending hunger in the world, definitely in the US. Food and water should not be a luxury.

How can our readers further follow you online?

Of course!

My website where your readers can find my favorite recipes, upcoming events, and endeavors — ChefMaxcel.com

When it’s safe to travel, your readers can find me at my current restaurant, COOP Detroit. Chef Max Facebook Chef Max Instagram

Thank you so much for these insights. This was very inspirational!

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