Chef Max Hardy has already made a significant mark on Detroit dining since returning to the city in 2016, opening multiple restaurants including Coop, Jed’s Pizza, and the shuttered River Bistro and he doesn’t seem to be letting the pandemic slow him down. Alongside two previously reported projects, Honey and What’s Crackin’, Hardy is set to touchdown in the North End with two additional projects — Rosemary and Byrd — in the coming months.
Anticipated to open in April, Rosemary will be a 25-seat, casual dining spot at 9421 John R. Rd. in the North End. The cafe-style restaurant is in a historical plaza alongside cafes and businesses such as the Red Jazz Shoe Shine Parlor. Rosemary will open for both dine-in and carryout with roughly 15 items on the American menu featuring rosemary as a key ingredient. Menu items will include rosemary and garlic chicken, garlic and herb-roasted vegetables, garlic truffle fries, blackened salmon, and rosemary and garlic bourbon steak, among other things, as well as weekend brunch.
Attached to Rosemary will be Byrd — an upscale cigar lounge. Set to open sometime between mid-February and early March, Hardy says Byrd will offer cigar-themed events, chef-curated cigar lounge dinners, cigar lockers for members, and more.
Further down the road in summer 2022, Hardy plans to debut the upcoming seafood restaurant What’s Crackin’, with dishes such as soft shell crab, customizable seafood boils, and locally-caught fish.
Hardy and Ron Bartell, owner of Kuzzo’s Chicken and Waffles, came together to create What’s Crackin’ in 2020, selecting a space at Livernois and Seven Mile’s Avenue of Fashion at 19163 Livernois Ave. In addition to being able to customize seafood boils, visitors will also have the option to choose from Hardy’s line of Chef Max Signature Spice Blends.
The crowned jewel of the lineup is Honey, a restaurant promising Afro-Cuban cuisine with Caribbean vibes in late 2022 at 1452 Randolph St. in the Harmonie Park district in downtown.
“I’m Bahamian, so I wanted to kind of play with some of the Caribbean dishes with some African stuff and mix it with a little Cuban,” Hardy says. “It’s playing with the diaspora of African cuisine.” The 25-seat restaurant will also have cocktails with honey incorporated as a main ingredient in many of the drinks.
In early 2022, Hardy plans to relaunch One Chef Can 86 Hunger, – his non-profit, fully mobile kitchen to combat the hunger crisis in Detroit. During Black History Month, he says he is organizing a community outreach effort to feed those experiencing food insecurity.. He will also use the mobile kitchen for a culinary program for Detroit high school students, to serve meals in different neighborhoods throughout the city.
Hardy’s current restaurants also have new menu options for 2022, including jerk chicken paninis and beef patties at Coop and steak bites, chili cheese fries, and a new chicken sandwich at Jed’s.
Hardy began his culinary career at Wharton High School’s Culinary Program in Tampa, Florida, although he was born in Detroit. He catered events in Tampa and soon after was awarded a scholarship at Johnson & Wales University in Miami. Hardy then created his own catering company called Chef Max Miami that specialized in cuisines from around the world.
When Hardy began to gain celebrity clientele, he hired chefs from major cities. He went on to become New York Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire’s personal chef and created his first cookbook in 2014, Cooking with Amar’e – 100 Easy Recipes for Pros and Rookies in the Kitchen. In addition to making food, he also has an apparel line for cooks called Chef Max Designs and has competed on the Food Network series Chopped.
“My goal is to always open restaurants in the inner-city to help employ the community while providing great food,” Hardy says. “I find that though it may be easier to open in a larger suburban area, it’s typical and would only serve myself. Food is at the center of everything, and I want to create restaurants that help sustain communities in need. I also try to show you can open successful restaurants in your hometown.”