Chef Jeff Henderson is hailed as one of the most influential chefs in the country. He had served 10 years in prison and now has his own tv show on the Food Network. He is also a highly sought-after public/motivational speaker.
Chef Jeff Henderson is also an author of the New York Times best-seller “Cooked” and award-winning chef. He had discovered this passion of his in a weird place though, the prison.
Chef Jeff Henderson Found His Passion For Cooking In The Prison
Jeff was previously involved in the trafficking of drugs and had served 10 years in prison for selling said items. He was in his 20s when he was involved in drug trafficking.
It was after his experience in the prison that Jeff built a stigma to live down. It was said that he had once controlled 40% of the cocaine market in San Diego. He was heavily involved in running a drug operation that earned him $35,000 in a week after distributing and manufacturing cocaine.
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“As a teenager, I took lavish vacations, brought my first home, drove luxury cars, and owned expensive jewelry,” Henderson said. “In other words, I lived the so-called American Dream at the expense of my community, which I am by no means proud of.”
Chef Jeff was arrested at the ripe age of 24 for distributing drugs. He started his sentence in 1988 in the Terminal Island Federal Prison in Los Angeles.
It was in the prison that Jeff became a kitchen chef and found his love for cooking.
“I enjoyed the kitchen praise and the fact that I finally found something I loved to do that was not criminal, that I could eventually turn into a great career once I was released,” Henderson said.
It was here that he started cooking meatloaf, cinnamon rolls, fried chicken, and Boston cream pie.
Chef’s Journey From The Prison To Las Vegas
2001 saw Chef Jeff become the executive chef in Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas and became the first African-American to hold the prestigious position. Jeff, 42, then became the head chef in Cafe Bellagio, in 2006. Jeff is currently the owner of Posh Urban Cuisine, a catering company. He is also the host of a Food Network reality show that helps out troubled youths and keeps an eye on them while they work at Jeff’s catering company. He has a show now, called Flip My Food. The tv show looks at the favorite dishes of award-winning chefs and celebrities, where Henderson flips the recipe to make a healthier version that is just as tasty.
It was not easy to accomplish such feats. He had to go through the trenches and had to wash a lot of dishes to get back on track. It was even more difficult as he was an ex-convict. Chef Jeff had met with numerous obstacles but did not let any of them stop him.
“I was a convicted felon,” he says. For that reason, “there’s always going to be people who are going to close doors on you. But my desire not to fix my wrongs, make my parents proud, to be around to raise my children,” is what kept him going Henderson said.
Jeff has received widespread national attention on numerous TV and radio programs and print publications, including The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, The Montel Williams Show, CNBC, NPR’s All Things Considered, People, and USA Today.
As a passionate and powerful speaker, Jeff’s appearances are in high demand across the country through his company The Henderson Group. Jeff currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife and three children.
Credits: County of San Diego government