For years, Northwest Detroit’s Grandmont Rosedale community longed for a sit-down restaurant. So Maxcel Hardy’s River Bistro benefitted from the pent-up demand. Word quickly spread about his Caribbean and soul food menu. After being open two weeks, the chef shared on Instagram: “Line out the door on a Tuesday? Why hello, Rosedale Park.”
Hardy likes to stay busy. At age 18, he set out to become an executive chef by age 21. After spending his youngest years in Detroit, he grew up in Florida and worked in some of Miami’s top restaurants.
Then came an interesting challenge. A Miami synagogue was in need of an executive chef. The application process involved cooking for the rabbi and his wife, plus the mashgiach — the supervisor who makes sure the food is prepared kosher.
Hardy’s veal and baked apple were perfect. But when asked to make matzo ball soup, he got a bit nervous. A first attempt didn’t swell in the soup like he thought it should. He separated the egg, adding the yolk to the matzo meal first, then aerating it with egg white. When it expanded beautifully, he went to place it in front of the rabbi. The rabbi picked out the matzo ball and threw it against the wall. It splattered.
That’s the best matzo ball I’ve ever seen!” the rabbi cried. “If they bounce, they’re no good!”
Introducing Executive Chef Maxcel Hardy, age 21. He then moved on to become New York Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire’s private chef, helping him pen a cookbook. He also established a “One Chef Can 86 Hunger” foundation. New York is also where he met Devita Davison of Detroit’s FoodLab. After the two collaborated on a Detroit Grown & Made series of private dinners on urban farms in Detroit, Hardy thought: “Maybe it’s time for me to come home.”
His first effort is River Bistro. In the tight-knit Grandmont Rosedale community, neighbors began offering each other tastes of their dishes while seated at the small spot’s two community tables. “I’d shower in this sauce,” said a customer about the Coconut and Curry Shrimp Scampi.
We also liked the super fresh Island Slaw, the jerk ribs, and the Bistro Salad with grilled chicken, candied pecans, raisins, avocado, cucumber, and feta. Save room for the “Walk of Shame” dessert menu. Vanilla bean cheesecake or the ice cream sandwich with cannoli cream chocolate ganache are notable.
Did we say Hardy likes to stay busy? He plans on starting a community garden on the street where he grew up. His Coop restaurant is slated to be part of the Detroit Shipping Co. food hall next spring, Honey — a high-end, African-Caribbean restaurant — is set to open in the Little Caesars Arena district. He’s also mentoring aspiring chefs, is looking to start a culinary school, and travels back and forth to Dubai.
Hardy also spent a Friday night in September supplying side dishes for the North Rosedale Park Civic Association’s annual Steak Roast fundraiser.
Because you can never be busy enough.