Sole Food: What kicks do chefs to NBA and hip-hop royalty wear in the kitchen?
Yvette Ervin remembers how it all unfolded. Six degrees of separation had done its thing, and a close friend of hers was also a close friend of Busta Rhymes. Busta was looking for a new chef to help him transition into a healthier lifestyle.
“Basically he was looking for a meal prep chef, and a lot of chefs don’t specialize in meal prep, so my friend linked me in with that,” she told Finish Line.
Luckily, Yvette also goes by Chef Deliche, the owner of Brooklyn’s Ms. Deliche Corp, and one day, Busta ordered food to the studio.
“I made salmon rasta pasta, rice and peas and mac and cheese for his crew,””she recalled. “It was nothing healthy!”
Once he tasted her food, he knew anything she made would taste good. The rest was history, and Chef Deliche helped transform Busta Rhymes’ body by replacing the worst parts of the best foods with much healthier alternatives. Whole wheat pastas, breads and rices, nut milks instead of dairy products and more greens helped this rapper transform his body.
And the right sneakers help Chef Deliche stay on top of Busta’s meal plan.
You’ll never catch Yvette in a pair of all-white Forces or any flavor of high-top Air Jordan 1s in the kitchen. They’re too precious. She refuses to cook in them.
But when Chef Deliche is in Busta Rhymes’ kitchen, you’ll almost certainly catch her in a pair of Nike Shox, or Crocs, or straight up non-slip work shoes.
“I like Crocs but they’re not stylish enough for me,” Chef Deliche told Finish Line. “I like to be fly. I do wear a lot of Nikes. I wear [Air Jordan] 1s, but I don’t cook in them cause I can’t get them messed up. When I’m running around, I definitely like a comfortable shoe, so the Shox, the VaporMax, Air Max.”
Any sneakers she wears, she adds: “Definitely needs grip cause sometimes I might spill things, and I don’t want to slip in the kitchen, ’cause that’s a dub. So something with grip if I’m not wearing a non-slip shoe.”
Grip and comfortability are just as important in Boston as they are in Brooklyn, where Kyrie Irving’s personal chef has been on the road with him since his days playing on the Celtics.
While on the road, Chef Corey B is likely to back out the Kyrie 5s, the Kyrie Bandulus, his Kobe Challenge Reds, or even his Jordan 10s. But nine times out of 10, if you catch him in Kyrie’s kitchen, this cookhouse king is in the lab barefoot.
Cooking for an NBA player is a task unlike any other, and cooking for Irving is a round-the-clock job. Nothing is more comfortable than standing on your own two feet with nothing on them.
“You want to be comfortable,” Chef Corey B told Finish Line. “If you’re on your feet for 10 hours, you’re making breakfast, lunch and dinner, after-game dinner, pre-game lunch, the meditation before he goes to play or works out, you definitely want to be comfortable cause you’re gonna be on your feet nonstop. Because Ky, he wants to eat. He likes to have snacks. You’ve gotta make sure you’re on top of it.
“If he has a little late-night or middle-of-the-day craving, you’ve gotta be ready, so you’ve gotta be on your feet all day.”
Cooking barefoot, of course, comes with its own challenges. Chief among them is the threat of slipping, which is a fate far too common for those throwing down in the kitchen without the proper footwear. So Corey will cook in comfortable sneakers if it’s a hectic day in the kitchen, and he needs his kitchen kicks to grab the floor properly.
“The most important part is definitely the grip because you don’t want to slip on anything,” Chef Corey said. “Say if you spill something on the floor by accident, don’t even see it, and you’re moving at a fast pace. You don’t want to slip or do anything that involves your feet with water and slipping.”
It’s quite literally a balancing act in this All-Star guard’s kitchen. Chef Corey wants to stay upright at all times, but he also wants to maintain comfortability. So he’ll cook in his Trooper bandana slippers from time to time, even if Irving tells him he doesn’t need shoes or socks in the crib.
There’s nothing worse, however, than cooking with a bad attitude, and as Chef Richard Ingraham explains, nothing throws off your mood in the kitchen than having a hurting-ass foot. That’s why it’s important for him to make sure the right shoe is on, because once it’s on, it’s on for the day, especially once he steps into Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union’s kitchen.
“If I put the wrong shoe on, it throws my work day off because I’m in pain, and it throws my creation off,” he told Finish Line. “I’m thinking about my hurting feet, especially if the motherf***** starts hurting at 8 in the morning, and I know goddamn well I’m gonna be there ’til 8:00 at night.
“I’m like ‘goddammit I might have to be in this bitch barefoot!’ So I’m very conscious of that, man, because being creative in my space is imperative to my job, and I’ve got to have a decent attitude as well, because I’m dealing with my clients and their guests, but if my goddamn feet hurting, bro, it’s like that SNKRS commercial — I’m acting like a straight bitch in there.”
While Yvette and Corey prioritize comfortability and grip, Chef Richard Ingraham has different needs. At age 50, Richard is almost older than Yvette and Corey combined, and as you get older, your body starts aching unprompted.
“I’m watching how I walk, and whatever foot is hurting, the other leg is now compensating because you’re walking lighter on the hurt foot. Now my knee starts hurting on the leg that I’m compensating with, you know?” he said.
“Doing this thing for almost 20 years, your hips hurt, knees hurt, ankles hurt, all your shit hurts, you know what I mean? So I definitely needed a shoe, or a style of shoe, that would be able to support me throughout my work day.”
Chef Ingraham took a page out of Wade’s book and now wears Dwyane’s “Way of Wade” shoe crafted by Chinese sportswear company Li-Ning. He wears a playmaking guard’s signature shoe in the kitchen because he likens his motions to those of a toned-down athlete.
“The way that they make them for [Dwyane’s] feet, you’re able to cut and twist and turn, and I do a lot of walking, going from the refrigerator, back to the stove, to the cutting board to the sink, and things like that,” he told Finish Line.
“Sharp movements, turning quickly, all of that stuff. It’s less of an impact than you would have on the basketball court, but it’s still some of the same pivots and moves whether you know it or not that you’re doing all day long.”
But Richard needs more shoe hacks. A well-crafted shoe alone is not enough.
So here’s his pro tip for anyone looking for added comfort in the kitchen: Throw Dr. Scholl’s inserts into the sole of your shoe for even more protection and comfort.
“I double up, brother, ’cause I get to work in the morning at 4:30,” Ingraham said. “And even though Dwyane’s retired, I still don’t get out of there until 7 or 8:00 at night, so that’s damn near a full 16-hour day that I’m working.”
Kristian writes about basketball, food and entertainment on the Internet, and in print. Here is his Ground Rule No. 1: No pineapples allowed on pizza. He has spent entirely too much money on sneakers this calendar year and believes his hometown of Brooklyn, NY is the best borough in the best city on the planet. He also makes one hell of an empanada. You can follow Kristian on all socials @Krisplashed, — unless you’re a perpetual Ground Rule-breaker. Then you must stay far, far away.