Chef Max Hardy—bold and inspiring, the award-winning chef has appeared on Chopped, been recognized as one of 16 Black Chefs in America who are changing the food scene, and honored as the 2021 Michigan Restauranteur of the Year. He also co-founded the One Chef Can 86 Hunger Foundation to fight hunger at home and abroad, a cause and passion that we share as part of Kellogg’s Better Days Promise. He is proud to partner with Kellogg’s Away From Home to create restaurant recipes true to his culinary flavors and Caribbean heritage using MorningStar Farms® plant-based protein foods.
Kellogg recently visited with Chef Max to better understand this food pioneer who is leading the way in offering delicious plant-based meals in his Detroit restaurants, Coop Caribbean Fusion and Jed’s Detroit.
Kellogg: Chef Max, how did you get started on your culinary career? Did you always want to be a chef?
Chef Max: No, I was betting on a future in the NBA, the dream of many young men. But in high school, I found my true passion in my high school’s culinary arts program while recovering from a basketball injury, and before I knew it, I was helping to cater events in my Tampa, Florida community. I got a scholarship to attend the prestigious culinary arts program at Johnson & Wales University in Miami and eventually became the personal chef to Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks, so I did get a taste of NBA life. Fast forward a few years and I now have two restaurants in the Detroit area, with three additional locations openings slated for 2022.
Kellogg: Why Detroit? Is the city known for its food scene?
Chef Max: Well, I’ve lived in Miami and New York, which have great food scenes, but Detroit is home. I grew up in one of our historically Black neighborhoods, and also was shaped by my mother’s Bahamian roots. At that time, Detroit was the motor city, not a food city. But things are changing. Here, I can invent a dinner based on the recipes of Hercules, a slave who was George Washington’s personal chef. I also can have my restaurants and teach kids in the community. There are so many more ways to strive for greatness as a chef.
Kellogg: In addition to running your restaurants and working with MorningStar Farms, you also are a philanthropist. Tell us about One Chef Can 86 Hunger.
Chef Max: It comes from me being a kid and sometimes going without. Food insecurity and food deserts are a reality for a lot of Americans. My goal is that no one goes to sleep hungry, my dream is to eradicate hunger in this world and through One Chef Can 86 Hunger Foundation I’m working towards that goal. I also want to teach kids to learn the same skills and help them understand how food grows, where it comes from, how to spend money and how to save. My brother, Aaron Arnett, and I started the nonprofit by giving a scholarship to aspiring culinary students. It has evolved into an organization that teaches young people about nutrition, cooking and economics to help alleviate hunger. The name comes from culinary lingo: when a kitchen is out of a dish, it is “86’ed”.
Kellogg: How does all this fit in with your work with MorningStar Farms? Why plant-based foods?
Chef Max: It started with me looking to serve people with various dietary restrictions. I saw how MorningStar Farms ingredients fit into my classic dishes and also delivered on taste. I love getting creative with the menu, and this allowed me to try different combinations of the bold flavors people know me for—all while giving people the benefits of plant-based eating. At Coop, one of my restaurants in Detroit, we’re now serving a Caribbean Chik’n Sandwich featuring MorningStar Farms Incogmeato® Chik’n Tenders and the Island Burger, including Morningstar Farms Black Bean Burger. Jed’s Detroit is featuring Southwest Chorizo Flatbread with MorningStar Farms Vegan Chorizo Crumbles.
Kellogg: So, we have to ask. You’ve been the runner up on the Food Network’s Chopped and competed on BBQ Brawl. What’s it really like being on a cooking show?
Chef Max: It was fun to be able to get out there and showcase my talents and skills with some of the top chefs in the country. I enjoy showcasing my talent and working alongside other experienced chefs. I love being able to share my stories with audiences around the world and show kids there are chefs out there that look just like them. It is truly an honor. I hope to grace your televisions in the near future.
Recreate Chef Max’s dishes at home with your favorite MorningStar Farms® products! Try his Southwestern Chorizo Flatbread, Island Burger with Jerk Mayo and Pineapple, or Caribbean Chik'n Sandwich with Citrus Mayo.
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