Chef Max Hardy (Photo/Am Media Group)

Chef Max Hardy, personal chef to New York Knicks superstar Amar’e Stoudamire, has excelled at leveraging his relationships with celebrity clientele to build a multifaceted culinary conglomerate.

Not only does Hardy have a highly sought after catering company, with a client list including Shaquille O’Neal, Warren Sapp, Grant Hill, the prince of Dubai, prime minister of Turks and Caicos, and more, he also has a nonprofit, lucrative chef clothing line, his own marquee events, a web series, and more.

Hardy’s avidity for cooking was birthed at Wharton High School’s Culinary Program in Tampa, Florida. Though Max was an extraordinary basketball player, he quickly learned that he had skills in the kitchen were also above average. He was awarded a scholarship to attend Johnson and Wales where he played basketball and continued to study culinary arts. He excelled on and off the court and graduated at the top of his culinary class. After working in the food industry for a few years, Hardy launched his own catering company. In 2010, he became Stoudemire’s personal chef and has continued to concatenate his love for basketball, cooking, and business ever since.

Chef Max took some time to talk “chop” with theGrio.com:

How are you able to attract athletes and high profile clientele?

“First, the niche of understanding sports and a little bit of what athletes went through to get where they are, helps out a lot. This was especially true for the NBA guys because I used to play basketball and understanding their life a little bit it made it a lot easier to capture some of those guys. Being a private chef, half of the battle is personality. Being a people person has been a plus.

Second, you also have to make food taste good, present it well, and make sure it is health conscious.

How do you leverage the relationships you have built to support your other endeavors?  

It’s tough to put everything together, but I have a great team and chefs that help me out tremendously to make this happen. One example of how my relationships helped with my support of my community outreach is the basketball program I helped support at Opportunity Charter School. I originally met with the Board of Directors about a culinary program.

When I took a tour of the school I asked if they happened to have a basketball program. She said yes and took me to the gym. When I walked in it was very ran down and it hurt my heart to see the kids trying to practice with backboards that were loose, no nets on the rims, no equipment, no shoes and they were losing. It was depressing.

I called my friends at Nike that I met through Amar’e and other clients and asked them to help me out. I said I needed them to help me put together this program to help these students. We got them on a 4-week program where I had a trainer come in every day and I donated breakfast for them to teach them how to eat healthy. He worked them out like they were a full-time NBA or a college team. We had them come in at 6am in the morning. Everyone said ‘I don’t know how you’re going to get them here at 6am chef,’ but before it was said and done they were at the door at 6am daily, with lifted spirits, eager to work.

What has been your favorite event to host?

We have so many but the latest project we would like to blossom is the night we have at the Crab and Cruise Festival in Maryland. Friday night is my night when we do an all-white Food and Wine Festival. We have three celebrity chefs coming out this year. It starts with a ‘meet and greet’ and ends on Sunday with a brunch. We started because one of my clients owns a crab store called Crab Place. They invited me down to look at the warehouse and it was a cool little island and it reminded me of being in St. Bart’s or Jamaica and I fell in love with it. It became a great destination for me and we hope it continues to be very successful.

Find Mia Hall at MiaHall.net or follow her on Twitter @mia_halldaily