Manwell Hoppie has been cooking since he was about 9 years old and professionally for the past four years. When he was 12, he played football for athlete-turned-educator Deion Sanders. During one of coach Prime’s “taste of truth” sessions, players brought food and everyone in the organization had a chance to taste it. Sanders immediately took notice of Hoppie’s talents in the kitchen and doors started to open.
Last week as Hoppie was prepping a meal for Cowboys wide receiver Ceedee Lamb, we got the chance to learn more about his back story.
When did you start cooking?
“Growing up, my mom liked to bake. She made this 7UP pound cake famous in the community. It was so good I had to learn how she made it.”
[Laughing] “Yeah, at the age of 12 I attended the Young Chef’s Academy and even completed the culinary program in high school.”
Who do you cook for currently and are you looking to cook for more?
“Dak [Prescott], Ceedee [Lamb], Zeke [Elliot], Coop [Amari Cooper] and [Trevon] Diggs. I cook for five athletes right now. I just don’t have the capacity to take on more. I think I’m good where I’m at, and really don’t see a reason to add to the list. I'll cook for some of the other guys from time to time, but I’m gonna stay with these guys for now.”
So, you’re cooking for some of the top names on the highest-valued sports franchise in the world; how did you get there?
“I started cooking for Prime after playing on his team as a kid, then when Allen Hurns was traded to the Cowboys, he tweeted that he needed a chef, and I replied with some photos of my food and told him I was Prime’s chef.”
Hoppie explains that he struck a deal with Hurns that included a small quid pro quo: He’d cut him a deal on meals as long as Hurns would share his stuff on social media. It’s that small strategic step for Hoppie that helped him get to where he is now.
“The Cowboys eventually followed me and I was often around all the guys. During one of those times Zeke mentioned he needed a chef for his birthday, and I jumped on the opportunity.”
What’s the hardest part of being a chef for celebrities?
“It has to be the me-time. I just don’t get much of it. I’m cooking for five professional athletes, friends and still doing catering events. Sometimes I just get caught up and don’t have the time to focus on myself, but I wouldn’t change it.”
What are the best things about this job?
“It has to be the relationships. Yeah, I may cook for these guys, but we have a relationship on a personal level, too. Not only that, but I’m around people I may have never been around. I’m learning ways to grow my wealth, and [I’m] introduced to new opportunities daily.”
What’s your long-term plan?
“I’ll definitely be cooking. I don’t know if I’ll be a celebrity chef forever, but right now I wouldn’t want to do anything else. I enjoy this and enjoy being around these guys. Like I said, it’s more than just cooking, but I guess one day I’ll eventually have to separate myself from it, but right now I don’t want to change anything”.
Chef Hoppie said when he’s not cooking, which seems to be 16 hours a day, he spends time with his friends. He never had the opportunity as a kid to go bowling or play laser tag, so now that’s his happy place.
Hoppie has also started a meal prep service with Zeke called Hoppin' Preps. He says meal prepping can be boring and he wants to create a way for people to mix and match and build their own dishes. Each week he will open it to roughly 200-300 people, and they will build their meals for the week. Go to Hoppin' Preps or follow him on Instagram for updates.