During his 11 years in the NBA, Amar’e Stoudemire, currently of the New York Knicks, has founded a hip hop record label, co-designed a line of “courtside apparel for the fashion forward-female”, and penned a series of children’s books. His latest accomplishment is a cookbook, written with the help of his personal chef, Maxcel Hardy. Only A Game‘s Karen Given spoke with Stoudemire and Chef Max.
KG: Amar’e, last week Derek Fisher was announced as the new coach of the New York Knicks. I’m wondering what you think about that and whether he has any culinary chops you know about?
AS: He may have zero culinary experience, but I’m going to try to introduce him to a little bit of that world. But I do think having Derek Fisher as a coach is going to be helpful to us. He’s going to put together a nice little coaching staff, and we’re going to get ready to gear up for next season. So right now, as far as players are concerned, we’ve just got to make sure that we stay healthy this summer, rest, and recuperate and also train to become better players next season.
KG: When you were in high school and dreaming of becoming a professional basketball player, did you ever think you might also like to write a cookbook?
AS: I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be the author of a cookbook. It just happened organically, but growing up I never thought I would be a chef.
KG: Chef Max, I love the story of the first time you cooked for Amar’e, how did that happen?
MH: It actually kind of happened organically as well. I was doing a party right next to his condo in Miami Beach, and I got a call – when I finished that to come over and do a party for him. So I went there, did an amazing dinner, it was kind of history from there.
KG: And this amazing dinner was not at, say, five in the afternoon?
MH: No, it was a little later than that. It was probably like 11:30, 12. [laughs]
KG: During the season Amar’e needs about 6,000 calories a day, and he often chooses to avoid meat. I can only imagine that, when Amar’e asked you to become his personal chef, you had to develop a few new recipes.
MH: Yeah, it was tough. You know, coming from hotels and country clubs and catering for different guys into now catering for a high-profile athlete that needs so much fueling to keep him polished on the court is a little tough. So it was definitely challenging to figure out, you know, what do I need to give him for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and how much of everything to do. But it took me a few months and then we kinda dialed in, and now we’re hitting a home run with it.
KG: Amar’e, I think people would be surprised to learn that on top of earning the 2003 Rookie of the Year award, 6 All-Star Game appearances and an Olympic bronze medal, you also find time to cook for your family and friends. Why was it important for you to learn how to cook?
AS: It’s just another avenue I can provide for the family. It’s great for the children because they get a chance to interact with me inside the kitchen, it’s great for the wife because she gets to sit back and relax and watch her reality TV shows, so it’s kind of another area where I wanted to add to my personal swagger.
KG: Cooking for your kids was something you did before you met Chef Max, so how did it evolve, how did it become better?
AS: I was a griller, so I would be the guy that cooks the meat on the grill, and I would have a friend or a guest of mine cook all the sides, and then we’d just collaborate and have this massive feast. But now with my new chef, now I take my cooking element inside the kitchen, where I’m able to make more of a gourmet-style meal.
KG: Chef Max, when Amar’e asked you to show him around the kitchen, did you ever worry that you’d be teaching your way out of a job?
MH: Well, I mean everyone always asks me that. I always chuckle about that a lot. I try not to show him too much, that way I can have a job everyday. But no, I really wasn’t worried about that. I just wanted to show him some of the things that I’ve learned over the years, and show him what cooking is essentially about. And I just wanted to show him the basics, you know, until he got that knife skills, learning different vegetables, and how to really understand food. So that was the biggest thing, I really wasn’t worried about him becoming a day-to-day chef. He has a lot more on his plate than worrying about taking my job away.
KG: Amar’e, this is a sports show, so we often ask our guests to pick a winner. What is Chef Max’s best dish?
AS: Chef Max’s best dish? I mean, there’s just so many. So, it’s hard to pick just one meal that he makes great, but my favorite dish — that I only indulge on maybe once a month — is the barbecue beef ribs. I gotta have those in my stomach every month or so.
KG: How about you, Chef Max? If Amar’e were to cook you a meal, what would you hope he put on the table?
AS: Oh man.
MH: Wow [laughs]. Knowing the things he loves to cook, and knowing his skill set, I would say I’d like a few grilled lamb chops, a little sautéed broccolini and garlic, and I’ll end it with a little vanilla Haagen-Dazs with a rum brownie.
KG: Amar’e, you sound like you might be up for this.
AS: I’m totally down with that, that sounds great.
MH: I’m gonna hold him to that.
KG: Amar’e, on the same day that I heard about your cookbook, I also received one written by Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, and I’m just wondering if there’s some sort of trend starting of athletes writing their own cookbooks?
AS: It’s possible. It seems to me that I’m kind of the lead man for all these new trends. I mean as far as athletes and fashion, now all the athletes want to become fashionable. You know, Chef and I have a cookbook. But I think Nolan Ryan was probably way in advance. He’s an older gentleman, he’s an awesome Hall of Fame baseball player. But I do think there’s a new trend happening for sure.