“Cooked” by Chef Jeff Henderson a story of and dedication, determination, and redemption
Anyone who reads enough books will come across a few that will profoundly affect your life. Miseducation of the Negro, Wake of the Wind, and Seven Habits of Highly Effective People have moved me in that way. Cooked:From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie Gras is now added to the list.
Cooked chronicles the life of Chef Jeff Henderson , who went from one of the biggest drug dealer in San Diego to a 19 1/2 year prison sentence, to the executive chef at Cafe Bellagio in Las Vegas. Chef Jeff details every step of his journey in this compelling piece of literature.
What initially struck me about Cooked was the language that was used in the opening passages. Whenever you see Chef Jeff, he is cleanly shaved, wearing his trademark glasses, as well as a pressed apron or chef's coat. But as the book begins, the language is coarse, filled with cursing and obscenities.
As Jeff Henderson grows and matures so does his speech and his voice as the author. I do not recall this particular approach in any of the previous books I've read. It's actually a pretty clever device.
The take away for me was Chef Jeff's unbelievable work ethic. He made his way to the top of the San Diego drug game by his desire to be the best and to do whatever it took to get there. That same spirit lead him to gain favor in prison kitchens and eventually in two of Las Vegas' finest hotels (Cesar's Palace and the Bellagio).
I was fortunate enough to meet Chef Jeff at Real Men Cook in Dallas this past Father's Day. I had heard of his story, but definitely not in the detail I would come to read in Cooked. The book has given me a new appreciation for the approval and thumbs up Chef Jeff gave the Not Yo' Mama's Banana Pudding I prepared that day.
I've been inspired to purchase the book for one of my family members who is currently incarcerated. Maybe he will be moved as I have, and strive to embody Chef Jeff like dedication upon his release.
I'd encourage anyone who is looking for a good book to pick up Cooked. Though the book is good, the added bonus is a recipe for Friendly's Buttermilk Fried Chicken that is included. I cooked this tasty treat a few weeks ago and the recipe is worth the price of the book by itself.