River-Bistro-Maxcel-Hardy

Chef Maxcel Hardy Brings New Flavors to Detroit


Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a rapper, NBA player and the Prince of Dubai walk into a restaurant and they all request the same chef. Can you guess that chef’s name? How about where he currently resides? If you guessed chef Maxcel Hardy and Detroit, you may have just earned yourself a chicken dinner.

Hardy, 33, began his quest in the culinary arts as a junior at Wharton High School in Tampa, Fla. when he joined the school’s culinary arts program under executive chef Edward Bujarski after suffering an injury while playing basketball.

“[Bujarski] and I hit it off and started doing catering for the basketball team, and all school-related events and it just became a true passion for me out the gate,” Hardy said. “I got a scholarship to Johnson and Wales [in Miami, Fla.] for basketball and culinary but quickly realized cooking was my true love.”

From there, Hardy started a catering company called Chef Max Miami where he employed chefs from Miami, New York and Los Angeles and cooked for celebrities, athletes and more. One of those athletes was former NBA player Amar’e Stoudemire, who hired Hardy has his personal chef.

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“I met [Stoudemire] one night when I was cooking for rapper T.I. and got a call, [asking], ‘Could I cook for a guy?’ It was 12 a.m.,” Hardy said. “I showed up and it was Amar’e and a few other NBA players. It was history after that.”

Hardy ended up teaching Stoudemire many, many recipes and the duo went on to publish a cookbook together called Cooking with Amar’e — 100 Easy Recipes for Pros and Rookies in the Kitchen.

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Cover of Maxcel Hardy’s cookbook made in collaboration with former NBA player Amar’e Stoudemire. Photo courtesy of Maxcel Hardy.

More recently, Hardy published a book with Rohan Marley and Rosemary Black called The Marley Coffee Cookbook: One Love, Many Coffees & 100 Recipes.

“Three years ago, I met Rohan through Amar’e. We started talking about coffee and his coffee company,” Hardy said. “I went home, thinking about all the things I could do with coffee and recipes we could create. I texted him the next day and said, ‘Let’s make it happen,’ and off to the races we went.  It was truly fun bringing coffee and food together. The whole time I was thinking coffee was just like wine: different blend and flavor profiles.”

Each chapter of the book opens with a story from Marley about growing up as the son of revered musician Bob Marley and Hardy brings his culinary expertise by explaining how different flavors of coffee complement different dishes.

Now, after stints in Miami and New York, the celebrated chef has settled down in his hometown of Detroit and plans to open three restaurants in the city, the first of which, River Bistro, opened in August this year. It features a Caribbean and soul food menu in the former Good Taste Louisiana Fried Chicken joint in Rosedale Park.

Coop, which is slated to be the next of his restaurants, will open in the forthcoming Detroit Shipping Co., a collection of restaurants, bars, retail spots and galleries with storefronts made from real shipping containers. Hardy describes his contribution to the shipyard as Asian and Caribbean fusion, or “Boston Market on steroids,” referring to his favorite childhood restaurant.

The third restaurant, which is expected sometime in 2018 in the new District Detroit surrounding Little Caesar’s Arena, will be called Honey and mix African, Caribbean, Lowcountry and Creole flavors.

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Jerk ribs from Max Hardy’s first of three Detroit restaurants, River Bistro. Photo courtesy of Maxcel Hardy.

In recent history, Detroit has really expanded its culinary palette with new restaurants seemingly popping up every week. Each new establishment brings with it new culinary talent that isn’t afraid to experiment and provide metro Detroiters with something new and exciting; something Hardy is aware of.

“Detroit is a great city with so much history, but not really known as a food and beverage city,” Hardy said. “So, when introducing new ingredients and cuisines to the city you really have to be mindful of that.”

In addition to knowing Detroit’s food and drink scene, Hardy likes to apply another piece of conventional wisdom throughout his career and life: patience.

“Everything in life doesn’t happen tomorrow. It’s a process and it takes time,” he said. “Whether you are cooking or in life, anything good is worth waiting for. I say that all the time to up and coming chefs, ‘You won’t be executive chef tomorrow but you can cook the best meal you can to help get to that point. The more you work at our craft and hone your skill the quicker it happens, but patience is the key.”

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