This week’s Chef in the Spotlight is Max Hardy, a Culinary Arts graduate of Johnson & Wales University (Miami). Max Hardy began his culinary training in the Culinary Arts Program at Wharton High School in Tampa, Florida. While Max was in this high school Culinary Arts program he started his own catering company and was later contracted by Wharton High School’s Executive Chef to cater events for the Tampa community throughout the school year. Determined to continue his education in Culinary Arts, Hardy received a full scholarship to Johnson & Wales University for his exceptional culinary skills. Graduating at the top of his class from Johnson & Wales, with a degree in Culinary Arts, Hardy founded his own private catering company Chef Max Miami; Hardy’s culinary swagger highlights his range of expertise in American, French, Asian and Caribbean cuisine. It’s his spot-on fusion of these particular styles that has made him a favorite with his clients which include politicians, award winning R&B and Hip Hop artists, actors, professional athletes, and dignitaries such as the Prince of Dubai and Prime Minister of Turks and Caicos. In 2010 Max Hardy combined his two loves, Culinary Arts and basketball, when he became the full-time personal chef for NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire.
In addition to Hardy’s work resume his “side jobs” are equally as impressive as he was voted locally in South Florida as one of the Top 20 Chefs Under 30, has created Chef Max Designs, a chef jacket apparel line and penned a cookbook, Recipes of Life, his culinary bible that gives light to recipes for all of life’s special moments. Hard work and persistence has been the key to Max Hardy’s success, [all before the age of 30]. Hardy continues to excel with and in his chosen craft and shows no signs of stopping. Hardy’s belief is that with each dish he creates, people will be able to “taste his dedication to excellence in every bite”. I am delighted to present this week’s Chef in the Spotlight, Max Hardy.
South Florida Food and Wine: Tell us about your position with Amar’e Stoudemire (power forward and center for the New York Knicks) as his personal chef.
Max Hardy: Working with Amar’e has been a true blessing. He has become more than an employer, we confide in each other, we debate over sports, we talk politics, we talk about our kids, etc. It’s been fun trying to get him to try different cuisines; different ingredients and just seeing his palate change over the last 18 months. Working as a personal chef to a NBA star is much different than being in a hotel or restaurant, there is different demand and I try not to cook the same thing twice unless it’s requested.
South Florida Food and Wine: Miami to New York, what do you miss most about South Florida?
Max Hardy: Wow, I have grown to love New York; it’s the best city in the world. The people here are passionate about everything which is something I really respect, however South Florida will always be home, there isn’t a city that offers everything. I love being able to sit out on the boat and fish, smoke a cigar at cigar lounge. I miss riding my motorcycle to work; I love the melting pot of cultures and cuisines. I really miss waking up every day and seeing the palm trees.
South Florida Food and Wine: When did you realize that cooking was your passion?
Max Hardy: Around 10th grade I had two passions, playing basketball and cooking. At Wharton High School there is a Culinary Program were I started perfecting my skills and by the 12th grade I applied to Johnson & Wales and received a full scholarship. At that point I realized I wasn’t going to the NBA so I put all my effort into becoming a chef.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is Amar’e's favorite [dish] that you make?
Max Hardy: Braised BBQ Beef Ribs, although Herb Crusted Grouper is high on the menu list.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your favorite dish to make for yourself?
Max Hardy: Pan Seared Grouper or Snapper and sautéed spinach, simple and quick; if it takes more than 10 minutes I don’t want to cook for myself.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one go-to ingredient and why?
Max Hardy: Cilantro and herbs are my ingredients; it’s so refreshing with a fresco taste to any poultry, beef, seafood, and salads.
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your last day on earth, what would your final meal be?
Max Hardy: Lasagna and Garlic Bread.
South Florida Food and Wine: Who is the one person you would love to cook with and why?
Max Hardy: My grandmother, I was too young to cook with her before she passed away. My family always saw her as one of the best cooks. She developed a family cook book, hosted dinner parties, tea party, etc. She was a true inspiration to my life and my career.
South Florida Food and Wine: What is your one guilty pleasure food?
Max Hardy: I have a love for fried chicken wings, I can eat them daily.
South Florida Food and Wine: What was the last restaurant you ate at? And what did you order?
Max Hardy: Tavern on Jane, I request the Chef to make a grilled pork chop with sautéed apple reduction & sautéed spinach.
South Florida Food and Wine: You’ve got quite a high profile client list but I’m sure there is still a person or two you would like to cook for; who is it and why?
Max Hardy: First, President Barack Obama, I would love to pick his brain on how food impacts his life and world. I think it would be great to know his favorite foods and cook them for him. Secondly, Dr. Maya Angelou, I heard she had a cooking job to support her family earlier in her life. Would like to cook her favorite recipe and wouldn’t mind being her sous chef. I would also like to know how cooking a family tradition was and values in the African American culture to her.
South Florida Food and Wine: It’s your day off, what do you do for fun?
Max Hardy: Well, that’s not often but I like to get a pick-up game of hoops, go fishing, take my daughter to a movie, shop at different ethnic markets, visit a wine bar and restaurants and ride my motorcycle.
Love the South Florida food scene? Check out our newly published book (Globe Pequot Press, $14.95), Food Lovers’ Guide to Miami & Fort Lauderdale