It takes a village to make a great NBA player. That’s what former Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade would like you to know, and he’s proud to include his longtime personal chef in his village. Richard Ingraham has been Wade’s personal chef since his second professional year playing for the Heat in 2004.
Before Ingraham came along, Wade was downing protein shakes for nearly every meal, and wouldn’t even consider eating a vegetable. Together, they’ve created a healthy, protein-packed diet for Wade and his family and have fostered an incredible friendship over the years.
Richard Ingraham wasn’t always an elite chef
Before he found himself in Dwyane Wade’s kitchen, Ingraham taught a culinary arts class at a homeless shelter in Miami. Then one day, he got a phone call from Wade’s manager, Lisa Joseph. She asked Ingraham if he would be interested in trying out a personal chef position for her new client, Dwyane Wade. Ingraham had never heard of him. He went into his classroom the next day and asked his students if they knew who he was, got the scoop, and decided to take Joseph up on her offer.
To land the job, Ingraham prepared a number of classic home-cooked dishes for Wade to try and finished up by cooking him spaghetti and meatballs in Wade’s own kitchen. He got the job and what started as a weekly arrangement quickly transformed into a full-time gig.
As the two got to know each other, they formed a fast friendship, quickly getting to the point where Ingraham wouldn’t need to ask Wade what he wanted to eat — he’d simply put something in front of him and it would be the right thing.
Richard Ingraham’s responsibilities are vast
When Ingraham was hired in only Wade’s sophomore year in the NBA, Wade was still in his early-20s and eating like most others his age, not like a professional athlete. Ingraham soon realized that while it was fun to cook his classic favorites like cornbread, mashed potatoes, and pound cake, Wade wasn’t going to make it very far in his career if he ate like that every day.
Ingraham took it upon himself to don a nutritionist hat on top of his chef’s hat. He experimented with his favorite recipes, figuring out how to substitute healthier ingredients wherever possible so he didn’t have to sacrifice flavor. Young Wade, however, didn’t make the task easy for him. Ingraham told SBNation, “I would try to introduce tomatoes and salads to him, and he wouldn’t want them.”
Over time, Ingraham’s pestering to get Wade to try eating better, along with his healthy experimental successes in the kitchen swayed Wade. He learned to adjust the way he looked at nutrition.
Instead of seeing it as an inconvenience, he learned to consider it an investment in a long and healthy career — which clearly worked, as Wade retired earlier this year after an extraordinarily successful 16-year career.
As time went on, Ingraham became more than Dwyane Wade’s personal chef
Wade is notorious for being a family man and has treated everyone in his circle as part of his family. Ingraham continues to cook up Wade’s healthy favorites, although now that Wade has retired, he can take the time to pair more of his meals with some of D-Wade’s favorite wines.
He has also added on the responsibility of making sure Wade’s sons learn how to appreciate a healthy diet, with the encouragement of Wade’s wife, actress Gabrielle Union. He has since published a cookbook, Eating Well to Win, documenting his favorite recipes that are high in both health as well as flavor.