Chef Jeff Henderson tells York County School of Technology students he would have continued selling crack cocaine until he was dead or in prison. Fortunately, the latter came first, and prison gave Chef Jeff the opportunity to make a new life. According to The York Daily Record , he told students, “When I went to prison, I got rescued.”
Chef Jeff tells his story, how he grew up on the tough streets of L.A. and San Diego. He claims to have been running a $35,000 a week crack cocaine operation by the time he was 19. By the time Chef Jeff was 24, he was imprisoned, where he served a ten year sentence. While in prison, he discovered his passion for cooking working in the prison kitchen, and he resolved to turn his life around. Chef Jeff explains that his life changed when he was fired from a prison job. His punishment put him working in the kitchen, scrubbing pots and pans.
Jeff learned the value attached to food behind bars. Furthermore, he had talent to add to his passion. Chef Jeff earned his GED behind bars, and was released with career options and a fierce determination. Later, he was named executive chef at Cafe Bellagio and Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas. ”It takes passion combined with the willingness to work harder, faster, and longer than anyone else,” he told students.
Chef Jeff claims he is always talking, which, along with professional appearance, is one of the keys to his success. He advises students that looking and acting professional will give them an advantage. Chef Jeff visited the school for free, and he explained this is part of his desire to give back to the community. He was also the host of a show on Food Network, where he gives troubled teens the chance to compete for a cooking scholarship, while he mentors them in both the kitchen and their daily lives. Chef Jeff has a published book on the New York Times bestseller list called “Cooked: My Journey From the Streets to the Stove.” It is a great, inspiring read.
Photo courtesy of Daily Record Sunday News and Jason Plotkin.