Celebrity Chef Maxcel Hardy
Personal Chef to the New York Knicks' Amar'e Stoudemire
Chef Maxcel Hardy's clients have included 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. In 2010, Chef Max became the full-time personal chef to NBA All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire.
Outside the kitchen, Chef Max created Chef Max Designs, a chef apparel line that gives a modern style to classic chef wear. In 2011, Chef Max founded the foundationOne Chef Can 86 Hunger; its mission is to help fight the hunger crisis in America and educate people on maintaining a healthy lifestyle cost effectively. The foundation also raises money for students in culinary arts programs.
Who inspired your generation of chefs, and what effect did they have on you personally?
I was inspired by a few chefs at my high school; we had a culinary program there [Wharton High School in Tampa, Florida] with chefs who have worked in Palm Beach and throughout the country. Also, my uncle [inspired me]. Seeing his career blossom and getting to work with him throughout college and culinary school was just amazing. And my brother, 20, is in culinary school now at Johnson & Wales University.
Based on your experiences, why do you feel there is an underrepresentation of African Americans in the food industry?
I wrote my college essay on that-- [the food industry] is dominated by everyone else, it was never a big to-do [if you were an African American]. You could just do it for a hobby, but through history a lot of African Americans were chefs, [even] chefs for presidents. It was never publicized; it was always kind of a hidden thing. [African Americans] went back into community and started opening restaurants. There wasn't a lot of culinary schools 25 years ago, but since then, African Americans have taken advantage of that opportunity.
Going back into the inner cities, teaching kids healthy eating and what the food industry is all about-- giving these opportunities and showing them that this is really something they can get into and blossom with it. Now we're working with a charter school in Harlem [Opportunity Charter School] and teaching them how to cook in the culinary school, showing them that this is something they can really do and it's cool to be a chef. It changes the demographic within our culture, moving away from fatty foods and encouraging healthier options.
Chef Maxcel Hardy is one of 15 culinary insiders that we interviewed as part of a special feature on Black chefs.