Richard Ingraham, Dwyane Wade's Personal Chef, Is Much More Than a Foodie for the Stars

​Miami native Chef Richard Ingraham is one busy, jet-setting culinary specialist. When he's not cooking meals especially made for NBA star Dwyane Wade (who will kick Bulls' butts on the court tonight) he's traveling home to Atlanta to play with his children and their new puppy. We met with the personal chef and former educator to talk about his Miami past and experience cooking for a local sports hero.

New Times: How long have you been Dwyane Wade's personal chef for?

Richard Ingraham: I've been cooking for him now for seven, almost eight years.

What is your favorite part about being a personal chef, as opposed to working in a restaurant?

Well, I mean, when I worked in restaurants, I loved it. And now that I do what I do as far as being a personal chef, what really makes me love it so much is just to be independent, you know? I have more of a personal relationship with the client, as opposed to being in a restaurant, you never really get to talk to the person or anything like that, and really know the person. At least with this aspect of the field, I really get to know my clients personally.

When you're someone's personal chef, do you cook what they want, or do you introduce them to new things?

When you first start, you want to do what they want, you know? If you're there for a long time, you can't help but have some of your own personal ideas and favorites to kind of blend in. In a lot of cases, you are kind of teaching them new things, and then if you're lucky, they love it, then they ask for it all the time. So, I mean, it's great, because in some instances, like when they have guests over, the guest may ask for something you've never heard of, and then you've got to research it, and you know if you're a foodie, you want to open up your mind up and go ahead and research and do what you've gotta go.

So, in your position now, did you introduce Mr. Wade to any new dishes that he likes?

It's kind of hard, because he doesn't eat certain things. He's a very picky eater, so you have to be very careful with the stuff that you try to introduce him to. You have to give it to him maybe milliliter at a time. You can't give him a large portion of it. But, we've gone from eating just regular rice and stuff like that to now we're into lentils, barley, stuff like that. And just to get him to do those things is an accomplishment.

I'm a picky eater, too, so I understand. But it's good to try new things. Are you an adventurous eater yourself?

Yeah, I try to eat anything once. I'm like that. You have to be in order to stay ahead in this field. You can't just say, I don't like that, and never tasted it before. At least you have to taste it. I try to taste everything that I can.

You teach at Johnson and Wales, too?

No, for this past month, it was great, I was able to go there and do demonstrations. So, I go there and do demonstrations for the students and answer questions as far as being a personal chef, things like that.

You also were a teacher?

Yeah, I taught, when I first moved back to Miami, I taught at South Dade Adult Education Center. Which that class is actually held at the homeless center down in Homestead, so I taught the homeless, and I taught the kids with behavioral disorders, as well.

You trained as a chef before teaching?

Yes, I went to the Art Institute of Atlanta. I studied there, and then I worked in various restaurants in Atlanta, as well, before I went back home here to Miami.

And then you taught...

I taught at South Dade Adult, as I said, and the next school was Miami Northwestern Senior High School, and then while I was teaching, I was also starting my own business, as far as being a personal chef. And, it was just a whole, full day. I would be up at five and get back home maybe 12 from a client's house. It was kind of crazy.

As a personal chef, do you cook three meals a day?

On average, it's maybe three. You may have snacks in between, a late night snack, so you don't know. If you're there, you're there.

You don't live with them as a personal chef?

No, I don't.

You don't get to cook much for your family?

No, I really don't, especially because I travel so much. Cause I live in Atlanta now. So, he flies me down here to come and cook for him, so I don't see my family as much, and then when I do get home, I don't really want to cook anything. But, of course, my wife always wants me to do something, so I wind up in the kitchen doing something.

When you travel, you don't just travel when they're playing, you live down here, because he lives here? So, you're down here most of the time?

Yeah, I'm here quite often. And then, of course, he has a three day break between games and whatever, and then I may fly back home to see my family, and then come back.

Have you cooked for other famous people before?

Yes, I've cooked for a number of people. I've cooked for Patrick Ewing, Terrell Owens, of course, Gabrielle Union, just to name a few. Alfred Liggins from TV One, and his mother Cathy Hughes. So, it's been quite a few people.

You're cooking a lot for athletes, do you then have to know a lot about nutrition and stuff like that?

I know quite a bit about it, but I always confer with different people that I know that know a little more than me to try to, especially like in this case, to get Dwyane to the shape that he's in now. So, it takes some studying and just going on the internet, reading books, asking different questions of other people to be able to have the knowledge to be able to tune their bodies to perform well.

Do you have a favorite restaurant? Places that you like to eat personally?

I think Senora Martinez, which is not far from here, I tried that last month, and I thought it was fabulous. Zuma, I went there not long ago, and I thought that was fabulous. And as far as maybe my favorite Italian place would be Cafe Martorano in Fort Lauderdale, so I think that's great, too. I've got a lot more, too.

Check back for parts two and three to learn more about Mr. Ingraham and Mr. Wade.

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Liz Tracy has written for publications such as the New York Times, the Atlantic, Refinery29, W, Glamour, and, of course, Miami New Times. She was New Times Broward-Palm Beach's music editor for three years. Now she plays one mean monster with her 2-year-old son and obsessively watches British mysteries.
Contact: Liz Tracy