Born and raised in Detroit, Chef Max Hardy began his career cooking for casinos patrons and private clients nationwide, but has been back home since January to open River Bistro on Grand River in Detroit on Sunday, August 13. The restaurant’s Caribbean/Southern fusion cuisine is a nod to Hardy’s family, and many of the recipes are inspired by foods his mother and grandmother made growing up.
Hardy was introduced to the culinary arts in high school, and assisted at catering events before attending Johnson & Wales University in Miami on a basketball scholarship while pursuing their culinary program.
“When I got there, I realized I wasn’t going to make it to the NBA, so I had better start focusing on cooking so I changed gears and started honing my skills,” Hardy says.
Hardy worked at different restaurants and casinos before being named executive chef of Williams Island Country Club in Miami at the age of 21. Not long after, he wanted to strike out on his own founded a catering company, Chef Max Miami.
“When I was doing that, I realized I was making everyone else rich and wanted to start my own company and that’s when I started my catering company,” Hardy says. “We started doing catering and weddings, but it turned into a personal chef company when the market bottomed out and the celebrities and athletes still had money to spend.”
A private dinner for rapper T.I. ended up connecting Hardy with Amar’e Stoudemire of the New York Knicks (since retired), who brought him to Los Angeles and New York as a private chef, and collaborated on a cookbook, Cooking with Amar’e.
When it was time to open his own restaurant, however, Hardy knew it was time to return to Detroit, and selected the Rosedale neighborhood because of his childhood ties to the area.
“I wanted to come home and set my legacy in the city that I’m from,” he says. “It was always near and dear when I was growing up, but we also wanted to bring the quality of food that you would get downtown and in the suburban areas to the inner city. In that area, there’s a lot of fried fish and chicken places, so I wanted to give something healthier and more sustainable to the community.”
River Bistro’s menu includes a bistro burger with jerk mayo, jerk ribs, honey spiced chicken wings, coconut and curry shrimp scampi, meatloaf, short ribs, and many other southern favorites with a Caribbean twist. The restaurant will serve “mocktails,” and a beer and wine license is in the works. In addition, there will be a brunch menu on weekends, and pop-up and private dinners, along with delivery services, will be available in the coming weeks.
Hardy also has two other Detroit projects on the books, and expects to open Coop in October, and Honey in spring 2018. River Bistro is located at 18456 Grand River Ave., just west of the Southfield Freeway, in Detroit. More information can be found here.