Dwyane Wade Opens Up About Post-Basketball Life as a Restaurateur
It was around five years ago when Dwyane Wade, 36, started to think seriously about what his life post-basketball may look like. That’s what initially compelled him to launch his own wine label, Wade Cellars, in 2015. But what he really wanted to do was open a restaurant.
In fact, the three-time NBA champion has always envisioned himself as a restaurateur.
“More than 10 years ago, I almost opened a sports bar,” Wade says. “But the deal went bad; it went south. I was young, and I wasn’t well versed in the business. Running restaurants was something I wanted to do, but that experience left a sour taste in my mouth. At that point, I was like, ‘No more restaurants ever.’”
Now, as Wade plans to retire after the 2018-19 NBA season, he’s made his way back into the dining game as a global partner for 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen, an expanded pizza and rotisserie concept attached to the fast-casual 800 Degrees Pizzeria in Los Angeles.
“I’ve always been a fan of the location in L.A.,” Wade says. “But years ago, it was just a pizza restaurant, and now it’s a lot more. Over time, I developed a friendship with the owner, Anthony Carron, and it all just naturally grew from there. I just needed the right time and the right partners.”
Shortly after Wade teamed up with chef/founder Carron, his first order of business was to promote the opening of New York’s debut 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen, located about a block away from the Empire State Building in Koreatown.
Then a few weeks later, in late September, Wade went out on his own, opening the first Florida outpost of the Woodfired chain as a partner and a franchise owner, giving him even more control over the restaurant’s operations.
Through a partnership with friend and teammate Udonis Haslem, Miami’s 800 Degrees Woodfire Kitchen is different from all other locations around the world (which include Los Angeles, Tokyo, and Dubai) in that Wade has had a direct influence on the menu.
The 4,000-square-foot restaurant, which includes a large open kitchen and bustling bar area, serves a unique menu influenced by the NBA players, with items like UD’s Woodfired Wings, made with a base of Calabrian chilies and served with creamy Gorgonzola dip, and DWade’s Woodfired Burger, a dry-aged beef blend smothered in bacon jam, caramelized onions, cheddar cheese, and roasted garlic aioli.
“If I got one last meal, it would be a burger,” Wade says. “They’re my number one. I was literally in the kitchen, figuring out how to put this recipe together. We started with different buns and toppings, but it wasn’t right. But then we got to this flavor combination and it all came together.”
Otherwise, the menu includes Carron’s specialties, many of which are cooked over an open flame. There’s the roasted cauliflower drizzled with golden beet tahini, meatballs with ricotta and tomato, roasted chicken with Peruvian green sauce, and the Honey Badger pizza with spicy soppressata and wildflower honey.
The Miami location marks the first business venture under Wade and Haslem’s new company, Forty-Three, named after their respective Miami Heat jersey numbers. In 2019, the two will open a second 800 Degrees Woodfired Kitchen, inside MiamiCentral, a dining and transportation hub in downtown Miami.
“Udonis and I have had conversations about doing business together for a long time,” Wade says. “Our plan is to do a lot more in the restaurant industry, but right now we’re focusing on 800 Degrees, and growing it across South Florida, from South Beach all the way up to Orlando.”
In addition to Wade’s restaurant, he also runs his own wine company, Wade Cellars, which is made up of a selection of California reds and rosé.
“It’s funny because I was never a big wine drinker growing up,” he says. “At around 28 years old, I really started to get into it. I enjoy the conversation and the vibe that centers around drinking wine.”
As Wade gears up to retire after his sixteenth and final NBA season, he says restaurants and wine will be a big part of his life after basketball.
“This is what I’m focusing on now,” he says. “Of course, there are other things I plan to pursue, but I’m really into food and the atmosphere behind it all. Restaurants are something I want to keep creating so other people can experience them.”