When the Blazers hit the road, their private chefs get to take a break—sort of.
At home in Portland, they might cook for players' families or respond to an ad hoc text advising their client against ordering the clam chowder from a room service menu in Utah. Though never fully off duty, away games provide those chefs a unique opportunity: For a few nights a month, they can cook whatever they want.
That is what prompted two NBA private chefs to start the Away Game Dinner Series. In February, chefs Kenny James, the man who feeds Damian Lillard and Rodney Hood, and Kiara "Killa" Hardy, former private chef for Hassan Whiteside, are offering athlete-grade grub to regular folks when the team is on the road.
"Blazer fans are insane," Hardy says. "They are absolutely in love with their players, and sometimes that means they become starstruck by us and what we do."
For fans who fall into this bucket—and any who simply need a good meal while they watch basketball—the Away Game Dinner Series is a dream come true. James and Hardy collaborate to create one entree per away game, which they reveal on their Instagram pages the day before. For $25 per entree, the high-protein NBA dining experience can be yours. Simply DM and Venmo Hardy to hold your spot, and pick up from Capitol Bar on Northeast Broadway an hour ahead of tipoff the next day.
"It started with us not being able to flex that culinary muscle as much as we'd like to," James shares. "[The meals are] a mix of player favorites, and a mix of our own inspiration."
When the Blazers played the Bucks on Feb. 1, James and Hardy whipped up the favorite dish of Kay'la Hanson, Damian Lillard's fiancée, who recently gave birth to twins: cedar-planked salmon atop shrimp alfredo. When a short-handed team improbably ended the Philadelphia 76ers winning streak on Feb. 4, Hardy and James made their take on the Cheesecake Factory's Cajun Jambalaya Pasta—it reportedly tasted like a saucy meat lover's pizza.
James and Hardy are both classically trained chefs. James is Lillard's cousin, so when Lillard's success on the court coincided with James' graduation from French culinary training, James was a clear choice for the job. Now, James makes the edible dreams of Lillard and Hood come true, while occasionally having to veto an unhealthy TikTok food trend when requested.
After graduating culinary school in Fort Lauderdale, Hardy built her brand in Florida as a private chef, cooking for the likes of Hillary Clinton, former Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum and many pro athletes who will remain anonymous per nondisclosure agreements. Hardy knows well the intimacy and pressure that comes with such high-profile, highly personal engagements.
"It's a challenge, but it's fun and rewarding," Hardy says. "When you see a client performing their best—whether they're a doctor, an athlete, a musician or a politician—you take that and say, 'Hey, some of that's me!'"
Hardy moved to Portland when Hassan Whiteside was traded in July 2019, and though he moved on to Sacramento, Hardy and her partner decided to stay in Portland.
"We got that feeling that Portland had a community that we could join," Hardy says.
Indeed, she's remained connected to, and has even strengthened, the tight-knit Blazers family. Since Hardy's arrival, avid Blazer fans have become used to her "Sunday Dinner" posts on social media, showing members of the team dining together. Now, with the Away Game Dinner Series, fans can get a taste.
The Away Game Series will run for the road games in February, with the exception of the Valentine's Day matchup against the Dallas Mavericks. This series isn't Hardy's only venture–she also runs the kitchen at Capitol and manufactures her Kitchen Killa French Fry Seasoning–and she'll be taking a break to host an aphrodisiac "Bae Day" dinner.
As for March and beyond, the series is dependent on demand.
"If people like it, we'll keep it rolling," James says. "We'll have it as long as they'll have us."
EAT: The Away Game Dinner Series runs through the end of February. Direct message Kenny James on Instagram with your name, phone number and number of entrees the night before each away game, and specify delivery or pick up. $25 per entree.