Because food connects us all, Yahoo Life is serving up a heaping plateful of table talk with people who are passionate about what's on their menu in Deglazed, a series about food.
Richard Ingraham spent years working as a hairdresser before closing shop to pursue his dream of becoming a chef. When he wasn't cooking, he taught high school in Atlanta, Ga., but when a call came in nearly 20 years ago offering him a job as NBA great Dwyane Wade's personal chef, everything changed.
"I connected with Dwyane through his manager, who was a client of mine in my past life when I was a professional hair designer," Ingraham tells Yahoo Life. "I did her hair for years. I did her hair for her twelfth-grade prom ... she gave me a call and asked if I'd like to cook for an NBA player. I said, 'I guess so,' and she told me who it was and I remember I didn't really follow basketball so I said, 'I don't even know who that is.'"
Wade's manager, Lisa Joseph Metelus, suggested Ingraham conduct an internet search on Wade. Ingraham says he also asked his high school students if they had heard of him. "My students cut me a new one because I didn't know who he was," says Ingraham. "I called her back and said I wanted to give it a try."
It's been 18 years since Ingraham first cooked for Wade, who retired from the Miami Heat in 2019. The Atlanta-based chef says it's been "the most rewarding thing ever" to work for Wade and watch his successes.
"It's definitely an oddity," Ingraham says of his lengthy tenure in the position. "You don't have many personal chefs that are in the field for as long as I've been in it, and it's rare to be with one client and to watch that client grow and watch his or her family grow the way that I have and be a participant in it."
Still, Ingraham says he remains the consummate professional in the Union-Wade kitchen. "I tell all chefs that are in my position there's a fine line between business and personal and it is not the client's duty to know that line," he says. "It's my job to know that demarcation between us having a very personal conversation and laughing and joking and him saying, 'Chef, I'm a little thirsty,' and before he can get it out, I have water or ginger ale ready and waiting for him."
So what's the hardest thing about meeting the nutritional needs of an elite athlete like Wade?
"When Dwyane was active, the most difficult thing was his schedule," he shares. "Especially when you have a top-tier athlete, they're on the go all the time whether it's practice or a game or interviews or them going out of town, so just staying ready at all times and making sure the refrigerator's fully-stocked at all times are important."
"Food-wise, it really isn't that much of a challenge if you stay focused on your client and you understand what their body is going through," he adds. "You ask the necessary questions to get information so you'll know what to prepare to help them perform to the best of their ability on the court."
The most rewarding part? Seeing his clients' reaction to his culinary creations. "By preparing something, you're putting it right in front of someone's face and they're eating it," says Ingraham. "Then they say, 'Oh my god, this is the best thing I've ever had,' or it can go another way and they say, 'What the hell is this that you've prepared?' Luckily I haven't had that one but I know it can go either way so I'm blessed to be on the good side of it for all of these years."
Ingraham likens his job as a personal chef to that of a performer — the kitchen is his stage.
"You're performing every single day because the kitchen is the nucleus of the household," he says. "Everyone gravitates there for breakfast, lunch, snacks ... it's very demanding, but it's a very rewarding and a blessed place to be."
Ingraham spoke with Yahoo Life as part of his work promoting Cîroc Passion, a vodka with a blend of pineapple, mango, citrus and hibiscus flavors. Ingraham has worked with Cîroc for other flavor launches, and even cooked at a New Year's Eve party at the home of Sean Combs several years ago, where he says "the Cîroc was being poured."
"It's nice and light," he says of the vodka brand. "I love that it's made from grapes and is very low in carbs. Each flavor they come out with seems to go with so many different things and leads me to be creative with the things I make."
— CÎROC (@Ciroc) June 27, 2022
For a party celebrating the launch of Cîroc Passion, Ingraham made one of Wade and Union's favorite desserts, Banana Pudding Cheesecake with Coconut Caramel Sauce. "I've made it a couple of times for them," he says. "I got the recipe early in my career and added a couple of nuances to it to make it mine."
Those nuances include a creamy cheesecake mixture with fresh bananas, a toasted pecan crust and a decedent chocolate ganache. "I don't make it a lot because it is a very rich dessert," he adds, "but when I make it, everybody devours it."
Banana Pudding Cheesecake with Coconut Caramel Sauce
Courtesy of chef Richard Ingraham
(Yield 10-12 mini cheesecakes)
• 1 pound cream cheese
• 8 ounces granulated sugar
• 3 whole eggs
• 2 egg yolks
• 3 tablespoons lemon juice
• 1 teaspoon pure vanilla
• 1 vanilla bean, scraped
• ¼ cup crème de banana
• 1 tablespoon crème de cacao
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• 2 cups sour cream
• 1 ½ cups banana puree (add a little lemon juice to prevent oxidation)
• ½ cup banana puree (add a little lemon juice to prevent oxidation)
• 10 ounces vanilla wafer cookies
• 1 ¼ cups toasted pecans toasted and chopped
• ½ cup granulated sugar
• 7 ounces butter melted (browned)
• 1 cup chocolate ganache
For coconut caramel sauce:
• ¾ cup unsalted butter
• 1 ½ cups light brown sugar, firmly packed
• 2 tablespoons water
• ¼ teaspoon salt
• ½ cup quality full fat coconut milk, plus more as needed
• ½ teaspoon coconut rum
• 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
Instructions for cheesecake:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F
2. Cream sugar and cream cheese together in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment (scrape often)
3. Add whole eggs, egg yolks, sour cream and first banana puree (not the one for marbling) (scrape often)
4. Add vanilla, vanilla bean scrapings, crème de banana and crème de cacao (scrape often)
5. In the bowl of a food processor, combine vanilla wafer cookies, toasted pecans and granulated sugar and process until finely ground
6. With the processor still on, drizzle in enough brown butter for the crust to clump
7. Press crust into small ramekins all the way up the sides
8. Lightly brown crust in the oven (for about 5 minutes)
9. Remove ramekins from the oven
10. Lower oven temperature to 300 F
11. Repair any cracks in the crust with a spoon immediately after removing from the oven.
12. Pour a light coat of ganache over the crust and refrigerate until set
13. Pour batter into the prepared crust
14. Marble in reserved banana puree into the top of each cake
15. Bake cheesecakes in a water bath for about 45 minutes or until set (check after the first 30 minutes)
16. Once set, turn oven off and let sit for 1 hour
17. Remove from oven and let cool to room temperature then refrigerate
Instructions for coconut caramel sauce:
1. Add butter, brown sugar, water and salt to medium saucepan and heat over medium heat, stirring until butter melts
2. Bring to boil for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally
3. Remove from heat and stir in ½ coconut milk, vanilla and coconut rum.
4. Let rest 10 minutes to thicken, then taste and add additional coconut rum if desired
5. Caramel will continue to thicken upon standing
6. If you would like the coconut caramel sauce thinner, simply stir in more coconut milk to reach desired consistency
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