When Lansing Shuffle — a food, drink and entertainment space with a seasonal shuffleboard pavilion — opens tomorrow (Jan. 26) in the old Lansing City Market, chef Max Hardy’s Caribbean cooking will arrive in the capital city. Taking what he’s learned from years in the industry and running two restaurants in Detroit, he hopes Irie Smoke Shack, offering traditional barbecue bites with a Caribbean flair, will keep hungry foodies coming back for more.
“I’ve always wanted to do a barbecue spot. I was trying to figure out what would be kind of different and what would be in my wheelhouse. One of the things I love to eat and enjoy in my downtime is barbecue,” Hardy said. “My background is Caribbean, my mom’s Bahamian, so living in Florida, being around Haitians and Dominicans and Cubans, it’s always inspiring that Caribbean side of me. I was like, ‘Let’s do some Caribbean barbecue, versus what you would usually see, like Korean barbecue.’”
Hardy became interested in cooking while attending high school in Florida. After suffering an injury playing basketball, he was looking for something to fill his time.
“During the time I was hurt, I took up home economics, which became culinary arts, and I fell in love with it,” he said. “Then I got a scholarship to go to Johnson & Wales (North Miami) for cooking and basketball, and that’s kind of how it started.”
He has traveled all over the world, working at restaurants and as a personal chef. He also founded One Chef Can 86 Hunger, a nonprofit that works to educate people about the hunger crisis in the U.S. and offers culinary arts programs in schools and community centers. He just moved back to Detroit from New York, where he cooked for New York Knicks player Amar’e Stoudemire from 2009 to 2014 and served on the Food Bank for New York City’s culinary council.
“I’ve had a good run of being able to travel around and use my culinary skills to help the community and do some cool things,” he said.
When the owners of Detroit Shipping Co., who also created Lansing Shuffle, asked Hardy to join them in the capital city, he willingly agreed.
“Looking at the Lansing market, I thought bringing some Caribbean flair and Caribbean barbecue to Lansing would be kind of cool,” he said. “I’m always trying to expand and do some cool things in the community that people really don’t get to see in restaurants every day.”
Irie’s menu includes jerk-rubbed ribs, jerk chicken, smoked wings with house barbecue sauce, harissa-smoked turkey breast, curry-glazed salmon and the chef’s special apple-infused smoked sausage. For sides, it will offer Caribbean baked beans with pineapple, Caribbean corn, collard greens and jalapeno mac and cheese.
Hardy says he’s “playing with traditional barbecue stuff but jazzing it up with a lot of Caribbean flavors.”
“I want it to be one of the best restaurants in Lansing,” he said, laughing. “I want to create jobs as well, to get some people back in the industry. We’re just coming out of COVID, and I know a lot of people came out of the industry and are doing different things, so I just wanted to see if we can bring some of those folks back to the industry and have some fun and make some money while we’re at it.”
Lansing Shuffle will also host Yeti Kitchen, offering Nepali street food; Osteria Vegana, a vegan Italian restaurant; Browndog at the Shuffle, serving traditional American comfort food like burgers and chicken sandwiches; and Kin Thai, which will feature Thai food and bubble tea. The grand opening is tomorrow (Jan. 26) from 5-11 p.m.
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