For years, one of the most anticipated annual Metro Detroit culinary acknowledgements has been when Hour Detroit announced its Restaurant of the Year, but the challenges the restaurant industry faced during the pandemic prompted a change for how the magazine would highlight the Detroit dining scene and all that it’s endured in the past year. Instead of Restaurant of the Year, the magazine announced its first-ever Restaurateur of the Year and that honor went to Chef Max Hardy for his food and philanthropic endeavors during the pandemic.
While the future of dining was uncertain, Hardy never stopped cooking. When Coop, his Caribbean fusion stall at Detroit Shipping Co., closed temporarily in the spring, Hardy opened new restaurant Jeds Detroit, launched a new line of spices, worked on a new cookbook featuring cannabis-infused dishes and fed hundreds of voters in lines at the polls during last year’s historic election. The 2021 Restaurateur of the Year also stepped up to feed thousands of food-insecure individuals through the initiative Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen for Good.
“Growing up, I went without a lot. Seeing so many other people help me and give to me was something I loved, and so I wanted to be able to give back. I really wanted to be a blessing to others as they were a blessing to me,” Hardy says.
“Growing up, I went without a lot. Seeing so many other people help me and give to me was something that I loved, and so I wanted to be able to give back. I really wanted to be a blessing to others as they were a blessing to me.” — Chef Max Hardy
Hardy understands the need in his community and says he wants “to bring concepts to the areas that need the most love and stuff that’s a little more fun.” Though these neighborhood projects are his priorities, Hardy has plans to join the downtown Detroit scene with Honey, an Afro-Caribbean restaurant and speakeasy positioned to open in Harmonie Park.
Listen: Hour Detroit Dining Editor Lyndsay Green talks about what they considered when bestowing this new honor of Restaurateur of the Year.
Hour Detroit Dining Editor Lyndsay Green says it was difficult to pick just one in this climate when so many other restaurateurs stepped up during the pandemic. But, she says, “You can’t ignore all he’s done in the community this year. … He leveraged his skill set and talent to serve Detroiters in need and that’s what this past year has been about.”
Recognized as one of Hour Detroit’s 2020 Taste Makers powering the Detroit food scene and one of the 16 Black chefs changing food in America by The New York Times in 2019, Hardy is no stranger to creativity in the kitchen. His cultural culinary expertise can be experienced with every bite of Coop’s Coconut Curry Shrimp served in a fresh pineapple bowl with Caribbean rice and cilantro, or Jeds Detroit’s signature Caribbean Balls drenched in a sweet-spicy mango habanero sauce and topped with bright, citrusy pineapples and shredded cheese.
Coop is located at 474 Peterboro St. in Detroit. Curbside hours of operation are 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Tuesday and 4 to 9 p.m. Friday through Saturday.
Jeds Detroit is located at 1648 E. Seven Mile in Detroit. Hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Saturday.
Hour Detroit’s Restaurateur of the Year issue can be found on newsstands and online at www.hourdetroit.com.