Synopses & Reviews
Jeff Henderson was just another inner-city black kid born into a world of poverty and limited options, where crime seemed to provide the only way to get out. Raised mostly by his single mother, who struggled just to keep food on the table, Jeff dreamed big. He had to get out and he soon did by turning to what so many in his community did: dealing drugs. But Jeff was no ordinary drug dealer; by twenty-one, he was one of the top cocaine dealers in San Diego, making up to $35,000 a week. Two years later he was indicted on federal drug trafficking charges and sentenced to almost twenty years in prison. Before he knew what had hit him, he was looking at spending most of his life behind bars. The street life had been the only one he'd ever known and even incarcerated he was too hardheaded to realize that no good would come of it.
That is, until he was assigned to one of the least desirable prison jobs: washing dishes. That job helped turn his whole life around. It gave him access to the prison kitchen and he became fascinated watching his fellow prisoners cook for the thousands of other inmates and prison officials. Henderson learned to cook in prison. Not cocaine, but food. And his dream was born: Once outside, he would become a chef.
It was a tough, seemingly impossible journey for an ex-con. Few chefs would give him the opportunity to cook in their restaurants. And once hired, he endured racism and sabotage in the kitchen. But Henderson refused to accept rejection. Driven by a dream and an unshakable will to succeed, Chef Jeff worked hard to overcome unimaginable adversity and eventually reached the top of his profession, becoming executive chef at Café Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Alive with the energy of the streets, the sober reality of prison, and the visceral thrill of being inside the fast-paced kitchens of great restaurants, Cooked is an intense, intimate tale of crime, punishment, and redemption—a deeply poignant story of how the worst wrong can lead to the most extraordinary right.
"How one of San Diego's most successful cocaine dealers became an award-winning chef-the current executive chef at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas-is the question that drives this sporadically inspired memoir. Henderson got his start dealing when his family moved to San Diego and he fell in with two street thugs. At age 25, after amassing a small fortune in drug money, Henderson was arrested, convicted and sentenced to 19 years in prison; once there, he discovered a love for cooking that gave him much-needed direction. After serving nine years, Henderson got an early release and began a series of grueling, occasionally demeaning jobs in kitchens, eventually working his way up to leading roles in Caesars Palace Hotel and elsewhere. Unfortunately, Henderson's story rings truest before he turns to the culinary; the fascinating level of detail in his description of the drug trade dissipates when it comes to the intricacies of working in and running a kitchen, lending his redemption a hollow feel. In addition, Henderson's casual reference to methods and equipment particular to the industry may leave amateur foodies nonplussed. While Henderson's achievements deserve recognition, this rushed retelling makes it difficult to fully appreciate his hard work." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“A well-told redemptive story ... Hendersons book details one brothers determination to beat the odds and live his dream.” Essence
“A really remarkable success story” Oprah Winfrey, The Oprah Winfrey Show
“[A] harrowing journey toward a life as a high-profile Las Vegas chef.” USA Today
“From hustler to high cuisine. . . . a gritty memoir.” People
“[A] raw, behind-the-scenes look at life in commercial kitchens [and] a personal story of redemption.” Flint Journal
Traces the redemption story of a Los Angeles native who spent nine years in jail for dealing drugs and who discovered his aptitude for cooking while working in a federal prison kitchen, a talent that led to his eventual position as an executive chef at an upscale Las Vegas restaurant.
< p=""> Cooking cocaine is remarkably similar to cooking foie gras. Both are costly ingredients and require careful attention. Left unattended, cocaine will go up in smoke; foie gras dissipates into a puddle of fat. <> < p=""> So begins one man's remarkable journey of transformation. Jeff Henderson grew up in the inner& ndash; city streets of San Diego. He spent nine years in federal prison for dealing drugs, where he became fascinated with cooking and decided to pursue a career as a chef when released. Little did he know how hard it would be to climb to the top of this profession. He is now the executive chef at the Caf& #233; Bellagio in Las Vegas. <> < p=""> A combination of Angela's Ashes and Finding Fish, this is the enthralling story of someone who has managed to overcome the most unimaginable adversity. Alive with the energy of street life, the sober reality of prison, and the visceral thrill of being inside the intense kitchens of great restaurants, Cooked is a journey through the America of crime, punishment, and redemption. And at it's heart, it is a very human story of how even the worst mistakes can be overcome.<>
About the Author
Award-winning chef Jeff Henderson made history in Las Vegas when he became the first African-American executive chef at the world-renowned Bellagio Hotel. In fall 2008, his own TV show will debut on the Food Network and his first cookbook, Chef Jeff Cooks, will also be published. Chef Jeff lives in Las Vegas with his wife, Stacy, and their three children.