( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Celebrity Chef Serving His Detroit Community
ENSPIRE Contributor: Lucas Raskin
Celebrity chef Max Hardy has been on the ground dealing with COVID like all restaurant owners across the globe. He’s been balancing his Caribbean fusion restaurant, Coop Detroit, and also the needs of his surrounding community. His over 15 years of experience as a professional chef have prepared him for the pandemic’s adversity and given him plenty of insight to share with ENSPIRE.
If you have been keeping up with the Food Network’s Chopped, you may have seen Chef Max before in January 2014, when he finished up as a runner-up. He has been featured in Bon Appétit, Essence Magazine, and New York Post. As a personal chef, Chef Max’s clientele has included figures such as Will Smith, TI, John Legend, and the Prince of Dubai. His experience as an executive chef and director of the kitchen for New York nonprofits has seasoned him to be one of the best.
Chef Max closed his Caribbean fusion restaurant, Coop Detroit when the pandemic first swept our nation. With the financial support of World Central Kitchen, he has been preparing meals for the homeless and BLM protesters. He is also a member of the “Too Many Cooks in The Kitchen For Good” program, which has been cooking meals for the homeless. In May, Chef Max reopened Coop Detroit, where he has been dealing with the same safety and financial circumstances that restaurant owners everywhere have faced. ENSPIRE has been in touch with Chef Max, and asked him these questions:
1. What changes in your menu have you been making to deal with the circumstances of COVID?
I’ve removed the items that come as a high cost because certain produce has gone up in price during the pandemic. I have changed the portion sizes due to food cost; for example, I would typically serve six wings, now I serve five to keep food cost in line for my patrons. I still want my guests to be able to enjoy my cuisines. I’ve also made adjustments to my menu to ensure the items are suitable for delivery and takeout.
2. What advice do you have for the average American who is straining to safely get the essential foods on a limited budget?
One of the things I think is essential is to meal plan – create a shopping list to ensure you are purchasing the vital things for your family. Also, look for ways to secure the items at a discounted price. Maybe utilize coupons more, or visit the more cost-effective grocer.
3. How have you balanced serving those in need and essential workers while also staying afloat as an essential worker? What is the significance of giving back to the community as a local business owner?
It is a challenge; however, I’ve gained balance by seeing others happy and putting smiles on their face during this tough time. I’ve made sure to plan my schedule where I’m able to help the essential workers early in the morning, then have the second part of my day to focus on my businesses and other obligations. It’s important to give back to the community because they have always supported me. I Live by a quote from Muhammad Ali -“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth” I genuinely believe giving back is how you get your blessings.
4. What knowledge/lessons are you taking out of this pandemic into a post-COVID America?
I have learned to continue taking time for yourself, in the future I’ll carve out time reset a few times a year. This has also shown me just how important it is to live life to the fullest but with less. I will continue living by the phrase my parents always said, “put some up for a rainy day.” I’ve also learned the benefit of having better time management skills.
Community leaders like Chef Max are really stepping up to face the COVID-19 pandemic. His resolution is inspiring for Americans of all professions. To keep up with what Max has coming out of the oven next, check out his Instagram and Facebook.