Essential Cooking: The most demanding culinary job in Detroit with Certified Master Chef Shawn Loving

Master Chef Shawn Loving talks with Ann Delisi and Chef James Rigato about running Detroit’s most challenging kitchen and how LeBron James got him started cooking for professional athletes and celebrities.


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Master Chef Shawn Loving is the executive chef at one of the most prestigious, and demanding, kitchens in Detroit — The Detroit Athletic Club (DAC).

At the DAC, where he is the first Black executive chef, Loving is responsible for running a kitchen operation that is colossal in scale. 

“It’s a monster. It’s an extremely busy job on every level,” says Loving.

The Detroit Athletic Club operates almost like a resort, and has 5,000 members. Private parties, formal balls and galas, and long-standing traditions like the DAC Bowlers Ladies Formal. 

For Loving, that means writing several menus on a daily basis, often serving thousands of people on a given day.

“It’s a challenge,” says Loving, “but one that I needed. It’s one that I think has made me more healthy, to keep that butterfly inside, to keep that fueled edge. I think I can officially put myself into a category that says I am a chef.”

Loving has been able to call himself a chef for years. But his most prestigious designation — Certified Master Chef —  came in 2017. It puts him in the top tier of chefs in the United States. Loving is one of only 72 Certified Master Chefs in the country. 

The eight-day exam throws down the gauntlet for chefs; most do not pass. Loving himself had to take the test several times before succeeding. Once he did, opportunity came knocking in the form of the Detroit Athletic Club.

Loving was more than happy teaching in the nationally renowned Schoolcraft College Culinary Arts Program, but when the Detroit Athletic Club called, Loving took the opportunity.

But, there was a catch. Loving had been cooking for USA Basketball at the Olympics, and he wanted to maintain that work relationship, which started with LeBron James hiring Loving to cook on-set for a commercial he was filming in Akron, Ohio. 

From there, Loving’s reputation grew, and word-of-mouth recommendations led him to being hired to cook for celebrities like Beyonce and professional athletes, including the Men’s USA Basketball team on-site at the Olympics. He was even called in to cook for NBA players living in the 2020 COVID-19 bubble.

The DAC accepted Loving’s request, and he still goes to the Olympics every four years to cook, all while managing an astounding workload as executive chef at the Detroit Athletic Club.

In this episode

  • Find out what it takes to earn Certified Master Chef designation. 
  • What it’s like running a culinary operation the size of the Detroit Athletic Club.
  • How Chef Loving got started cooking for professional athletes and celebrities like LeBron James and the USA Men’s Basketball team at the Olympic Games.

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Author

  • David Leins

    David Leins is a Podcast Coordinator and Producer at WDET. He also oversees the StoryMakers program. When he isn't making radio and podcasts, David is probably on a hike somewhere marveling at the trees.