The author of the New York Times bestselling Cooked, award-winning chef, and star of his own Food Network docu-reality show dishes up his first cookbook, Chef Jeff Cooks.
Jeff Henderson's story is familiar: Raised in South Central Los Angeles, he became a successful drug dealer. He made a lot of money. He got caught.
But what happened next wasn't the same old story: Jeff changed. He found a passion in prison kitchens and taught himself to cook. Once released, he talked his way into a series of professional kitchens -- almost always having to prove himself by starting as a dishwasher or line cook. His talent was obvious; his work ethic even more so. After rising to the top of the kitchen in some of Los Angeles's best restaurants, he became the first African American Chef de Cuisine in Las Vegas at Caesars Palace and then executive chef at Café Bellagio in the prestigious Bellagio Resort.
Now Jeff shows theworld his food and it is delicious. What inspires him? Foods he ate as a child -- Half-pound "Back-in-the-Day" Chili Cheeseburger, Turkey Smoked Collard Greens, Friendly Fried Chicken, Macaroni and Smoked Cheddar Cheese, Cakelike Cornbread with Maple Butter, and Chocolate S'more Bread Pudding -- are here as well as the more elegant, celebratory cuisine he developed as a chef -- Sweet Potato Soup, Barbecued Shrimp Scampi, and slow-cookedMolasses Braised Beef Short Ribs. Cooks will also find lots of great recipes for the grill and plenty of party foods, satisfying salads, quick breads, sides, soups, sweet endings, and more.
Featuring over 150 recipes, stunning full-color photographs, tips and techniques, as well as personal outtakes and anecdotes from Chef Jeff's life on the streets, the prison kitchen, and hiswork as a chef andmotivational speaker, this is much more than a cookbook -- it is a larger-than-life American success story and the recipe for how Chef Jeff fulfilled his dream.
In his bestselling memoir Cooked, Henderson chronicled his improbable rise from drug dealer to professional chef; here, he returns to his favorite topic-himself-for a cookbook-paean to home cooking, fortunately filled out with family-pleasing recipes. Though happy to name-drop the great restaurants he's cooked for, Henderson shares virtually no fine dining recipes, instead focusing on classic home cooking: Big Mac's Meat Loaf, peanut butter cookies, pineapple upside down cake and a handful of simple but flavorful sandwiches and salads. When he lets the food do the talking, Henderson is a patient and insightful teacher, ideal for those new to the kitchen and complete with ideas for stretching budgets and pantries. A doting parent, Henderson frequently lightens up entrees by substituting, for instance, ground turkey for beef in his chili or soy yogurt for a parfait. Other kid-friendly favorites like Macaroni and Smoked Cheddar Cheese, grilled corn and a simple fruit salad should please. When he does stray from the standard, results are usually interesting, as in his Sweet Corn Vinaigrette dressing and a rich and velvety sweet potato soup (though readers should pause before drizzling ketchup atop his ground beef tacos). Those looking for an introductory cookbook or some simple family-pleasing meals will find them in these flavorful, to-the-point recipes; Henderson's self-aggrandizing shtick, however, remains tiresome.