Current NBA players aren’t the only athletes that are custom crazy. While retired legend and sneaker star Penny Hardaway may still debut the latest and greatest from his revived retro line, he’s still hungry for more.
Who does the Memphis-native call on for an extra helping of sole food? Chef of GourmetKickz. Well renowned for his precision paint jobs and creative colorways, the custom extraordinaire recently went in the kitchen to cook up something for Penny himself. Find out how it all went down in the story below.
Nice Kicks: How did you and Penny get linked up?
Chef: In November of 2013 I had posted some custom foams on my Instagram page and I was getting great feedback from them in the comments. I typically try to moderate comments throughout the day after a post, so at one point when I was moderating I noticed Penny had said something. I looked, and at first glance I did not think it was Penny himself commenting, but at closer inspection I saw that it was indeed Penny. He had said “@gourmetkickz What’s up bro! How can I get your info?” I was taken aback. I had been customizing this icon’s signature sneaker for a few years steady and now he is asking me for my contact info. Crazy!
Nice Kicks: That’s awesome! How’d you get it moving from social media to real world work and a relationship?
Chef: Within a day Penny and I were on the phone. In our first hour long conversation Penny mentioned that he had never owned or thought of owning a pair of custom Foams until he saw my work. I was flattered and speechless. I told him what an honor it would be to customize shoes for him, and how the Foamposite One has become my favorite canvas to work on. We went on to talk about other things as well. He of course talked about his role as coach at Lester Middle School to help out his close friend Dez. We also got into a long discussion about the movie Blue Chips. It was great first convo. Days later a big box arrived at my house and there were four pairs of size 14 Foamposites inside. I completed one of the pairs for Penny’s most recent birthday. Those were simply dubbed the “Birthday Cake” Foams. His friend Chris Campbell worked with me on finalizing the design and made sure Penny got them at the right time. They were a bit of a surprise for Penny.
Nice Kicks: Nice, what was the next move from there?
Chef: Chris hit me up a couple of weeks ago, just before Dez passed, and asked if the next pair could be ready for All-Star Weekend. I committed to completing the next pair for that weekend, but in truth had not yet solidified the concept. I must admit, the first pair I completed was a “gimme” because Chris told me which pair of my past works Penny really loved, so I only had to make a few changes to an existing design for his Birthday Foams. Now this next pair, for All-Star…a Foamposite One for Mr. Hardaway himself? Oh boy…talk about Chef in a pressure cooker! So I slept on it with the mantra in mind that the concept will come together and hit me like a ton of bricks by morning.
I woke up the next morning and as I was cleaning up my room, a single penny stood out among the change on my dresser. An older, oxidized and well patinated penny sat there staring at me and my mind immediately went to work. I thought about the “Copper” Foamposites and imagined if they were made of real copper what would happen over time as they were exposed to the elements. The entire upper would take on a patina, and then if someone were to polish the Foamposite to remove the patina, only the valleys of the Foamposite’s upper would remain patinated. I got to cookin’ immediately. Just a few days later I got the news that Dez had passed. I knew then that the Patina theme was the right one to serve Penny for the All-Star Weekend. I wrote a quote for the box label, which I would later read to Penny: “As copper is exposed to the elements, it develops a texture and color that reflects the environment it has been exposed to. We all develop a patina, shaped by the things we endure and the people that impact us. Patina is the sign of a life well lived.” The quote references Dez’s impact on Penny, but on a deeper level it references the fact that we as humans all develop a rough exterior as a result of life’s bumps and bruises and change in a way. In essence, we all develop our own patina, and it is a beautiful thing.
Nice Kicks: That’s deep. How’d you go about getting them to Penny?
Chef: I drove into NYC on Saturday at the height of the All Star Weekend. I navigated through thick traffic and averted disaster several times to finally arrive at a parking garage just around the corner from Penny’s hotel in Times Square. The hotel lobby was saturated in NBA All-Star signage and flooded with people in town for the star-studded weekend. I couldn’t find Chris, who I had been texting with my ETA during the difficult drive in, as I guarded the kicks like a pitbull and scanned the lobby floor for a familiar face. I finally decided to call up to Penny’s room in hopes that he had not yet left the hotel for the day. To my surprise, the hotel clerk handed me the phone and Penny’s familiar laid back voice answered “Hey bro you here?” He gave me his suite number and warned me he was in the middle of getting a fresh cut, and to excuse the room. I chuckled “no problem, see you in a minute.”
Penny answered the door and his barber stepped aside as finally “Chef” and Penny met for the first time face to face. It was surreal to meet a legend like Penny, but not awkward at all since he and I had spoken so many times on the phone. I waited until Penny was done with his cut and pulled from my pocket the oxidized penny that inspired the dishes I was about to serve him. I brought two boxes and presented Penny with two pairs, the Foamposite One (the second of the four pairs he commissioned me on) and an AF1 I seeded him to promote an upcoming Patina Pack that was inspired by the work I did on his Foamposite. He loved the concept and said “You’re too deep bro!” I said, “Well, copper patinas so I am a little surprised someone at Nike didn’t already decide to reboot the Copper foam and do something like this.” He replied again, “I dunno Chef, you’re too deep for Nike bro!” I chuckled. I showed Penny the AF1 next and explained my rationale. “The only other sneaker that I am aware of that ever bore your logo, besides one of your signature shoes, was the AF1. The AF1 is my favorite sneaker of all time, so I HAD to make you one.”
Nice Kicks: That’s amazing. Can we expect to see more work from you for Penny?
Chef: Penny and I spoke for a minute longer about the next two Foams he commissioned me on and got our ideas solidified for those pairs. I left his room feeling very accomplished and look forward to getting Penny’s next shoes done. The project was so intense and involved a painting process that I had never worked with before. Real copper was mixed with my paints to generate a natural patina. The process is so amazing and inspiring that the theme has to continue in the kitchen, if not as a GourmetKickz staple then as a recurring theme. I am dubbing the theme “Cookin’ with Copper,” a kind of tongue in cheek reference to my involvement with Penny Hardaway and a play on words that references a chef’s use of copper cookware. While the Patina Pack for Penny included a Foamposite One and an Air Force One, I have a release scheduled next week with Massdrop.com to launch a similar AF1 and another Nike “One” silhouette. My plan is to revisit the theme using other “Ones,” so fans of this Patina Pack can look forward to copping an AF1 and this other yet to be revealed “One” next week on Massdrop.com. They should also know that this is not the end of Chef Cookin’ With Copper.
Click the next page for more photos and an official list of ingredients.