At 29 years old, Weehawken resident Maxcel Hardy has accomplished more than most people twice his age. And he shows no signs of slowing down, running successful catering companies in New York, Tampa, and Los Angeles, teaching culinary arts and health awareness in inner cities across the country, running a foundation that awards grants to promising students, designing a clothing line for high-end chefs and penning several upcoming cookbooks. And that’s not to mention Hardy’s day job as personal chef to NBA All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks.
“I normally get to work around 9, 10 o’clock,” Hardy said. “A typical day is breakfast, lunch, and dinner. [Stroudemire] has three kids, a wife, and a nanny, so it’s anywhere from six to 15 people on any given night. And she might have a lunch party for 10 in the middle of the day. It’s kind of a busy day.”
“I try to theme it out so no one gets bored and it’s not the same tedious meals every day,” Hardy explained.
Stoudemire asked if Hardy would be interested in moving to New York.
Hoops and food
Hardy split his early years between Detroit, where his dad lived, and Florida, his mom’s home. A star athlete himself, he left Detroit in seventh grade to attend Wharton High School in Tampa. It was here he enrolled in the Culinary Arts Program and met Executive Chef Edward Bujarski, who served as a mentor.
Before long Hardy had printed 500 business cards reading “Chef to the Stars,” sticking them in the windows of every expensive car he saw. Using his mother’s bank account (and her ability to buy booze on behalf of her underage son), along with his school’s kitchen and his friends as chefs, Hardy built a business and a local reputation. At the same time he worked his way up to sous chef at the Hard Rock Casino and then executive chef in charge of a $7 million annual food budget at the renowned Williams Island Country Club, personally cooking meals for countless A-listers. He was 21 at the time.
When new management took over and eliminated many of the former employees, Hardy found himself holding a healthy severance package. The very next day he established Chef Max Miami, which has since become a highly profitable catering company.
On the move
Among the many celebrity clients who enjoyed Hardy’s services in Miami was Stoudemire. The ballplayer contracted to fly out Hardy to Los Angeles as personal chef for two weeks, and while there, Hardy spread the seeds for what would become Chef Max LA.
At the end of the assignment, Stoudemire asked if Hardy would be interested in moving to New York.
With his wife and 8-year-old daughter, Hardy moved to White Plains before settling about a year ago in Weehawken, commuting into New York daily by car or ferry.
“I really like it,” says Hardy of his current home. “It’s good for my daughter. They got the parks and the walking trails and so forth. It’s quiet and people are real friendly. Got a view of the city, that’s good. Wake up in the morning, walk out the door, get to see it.”
Hardy’s other great passion besides cooking and basketball is kids, and he established a foundation to help youth in numerous ways. Named “One Chef Can 86 Hunger,” the foundation raises awareness about healthy eating and combats hunger in inner cities.
Partnering with local schools, the foundation offers seminars on healthy living and awards scholarships to promising students in the culinary arts. In addition, it provides meals on a traveling basis. This October, World Hunger Month, the foundation aims to provide between 500 and 1,000 meals in each borough through a wheels on meals program, with additional programs in Detroit, Newark, and elsewhere.
Hardy personally gives back by teaching a culinary course at the Opportunity Charter School in Harlem. This past year he ran an 18-week course for four hours on Wednesday mornings. Next year he plans to expand the course to three mornings a week.
“It’s never a dull moment,” he said. “I just think while we’re here we gotta do our part to help develop kids because they are the future. Someone did it for me, someone gave back and helped me get to the next level and so why wouldn’t I do the same? It’s tiring but you gotta get out there and keep pushing.”