Black History Month One-On-One: Maxcel Hardy

February 1, 2014 6:00 AM

Chef Max teaching the O.C. (Credit: 2013 AM Media Group)

Chef Max teaching the O.C. (Credit: 2013 AM Media Group)

Written & Anchored By 1010 WINS’ Larry Mullins
Produced for 1010 WINS Radio by Sharon Barnes-Waters

NEW YORK (1010 WINS) — Chef Maxcel Hardy is many things: a celebrity chef, the founder of anti-hunger campaign “One Chef Can 86 Hunger,” and a former NBA player. But he also teaches a culinary program at Opportunity Charter School, a school in Harlem that gives children a shot at specialized vocations.

Larry’s BlogChef Maxcel Hardy

The Detroit native said he found Opportunity Charter School through a chance meeting with an instructor from the school who had asked if he had any way to get his client Amare Stoudemire to visit the school.

Hardy called the meeting a godsend. “When I walked in I instantly heard the basketballs bouncing in the gym. So I walked into their gym and – being a former basketball player and wanting to go to the NBA – I saw some kids that needed some help,” Hardy said.

Basketball was Hardy’s introduction to the school but his passion for helping the students didn’t end there. Soon after, he had begun working on the culinary program there.

Looking back on his first class, Hardy said he wasn’t sure if the students would “buy into it.” But once they got into the kitchen and really saw what was going on, they really got into it and that made him much more at ease to teach and have fun with the kids.

“I always tell ’em: if it’s not fun then I don’t want to do it and you shouldn’t want to do it either,” Hardy said.

More: Photo Gallery Of 2014 Black History Month Honorees

Hardy credits his family for helping him develop his passion for cooking at an early age. “Food’s been like, a focal point pretty much all my life. So going into the field of culinary arts was kind of easy for me.”

After a brief stint in the NBA, Hardy said life was brought to a full circle when he was given the opportunity to bridge his love of basketball and cooking together as a chef to NBA players such as Stoudemire.

More: Opportunity Charter School

As a chef to the stars, Hardy has worked with the likes of Jamie Foxx, Michael Jordan, and rapper Fabolous.

But Hardy says the kids are what’s most important to him. “More than anything, it’s been important to cook for the kids actually. And to get into the community and do community work. So that over-shines who I cook for everyday.”