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Cooked: My Journey from the Streets to the Stove Paperback – February 26, 2008

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks; Reprint edition (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061153915
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061153914
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (101 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #116,900 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

How one of San Diego's most successful cocaine dealers became an award-winning chef [...] 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Juggling coarsest street talk with purest narrative prose, Henderson relates his near-miraculous transformation from a thuggish Los Angeles drug dealer to an acclaimed Las Vegas chef--the Food Network meets Trainspotting. Introduced to a world of crime by his larcenous grandfather, Henderson descends from petty theft to big-time drug dealing, generating a cash flow that nets him fast cars and fancy houses. The law finally catches up with him, and he finds himself facing a long term in grim federal prison. Almost inadvertently, he starts working in the prison kitchen and discovers both a talent and a passion for making good food. Early release lets him pursue his dream and reconnect with a loving family. This tale of hard-won redemption juxtaposes the worlds of haute cuisine and illicit drugs, slyly exploring the parallels between manufacturing a batch of crack cocaine and sauteing foie gras. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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See all 101 customer reviews
Overall, the book is a good read & motivational & inspirational.
When I think of this book and what I have learned from it, I realize that you can do anything you want in your life if you put your mind to it.
S. Walker
Chef Jeff's story can motivate people for any walk of life if they are determined.
John Green

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Patrick Picciarelli on July 19, 2007
Format: Hardcover
As a retired NYPD lieutenant, I've experienced my share of ex-cons who talk a good talk about "going straight" vs. those who actually do it. Mr. Henderson has written an inspirational and totally believable version of his life. I listened to the unabridged audio version of the book, with the autor as reader. While Mr. Henderson retains his street accent, this book could have been read by a polished reader with not nearly the impact.

So, coming from a cynical old cop, I believe I've found one of the few ex-con who speaks the truth about his desire to become a functioning member of society while attaining culinary heights not often relaized by those who've had more opportunities in life. Great book.
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By fivegait on March 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book is incredible. Jeff has an incredible personal story of overcoming adversity. He is an inspiration and the story reads fast and it is inspiring. It can inspire those of us that are unaware of the 'street life.' We need to hear stories of a young man that over-came the only life he knew and how he has now (as Maya Angelou says) become a rainbow in the clouds. Everyone should read this book and be thankful for all our big and small blessings. I've also heard Jeff speak and he is a powerful, engaging and thought-provoking speaker.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By love the written word on March 1, 2007
Format: Hardcover
To simplify the essence of who Jeff is, he is "the man." His story and survival is just "wow," awe inspiring. Not only did he survive the hell and challenges of poverty with no guidance from family, he was drawn into the "bling" world of drugs, fast money and sex. The blessing for Jeff was actually going to prison, and not because this put him on the path to achieving his dream of becoming a world class chef,prison kept him ALIVE.

"Cooked" is a well written book that is so down to earth and engaging, that you want to help that lost boy that was virtually alone in his youth, and celebrate with Jeff his current success. He writes brilliantly and draws his reader in with his beautiful style.

How lucky we all are to share in the "sweets" of Jeff's remarkable life and "dishes" at the Bellagio. Thanks for changing your life Jeff, we are all benefiting in our waist line.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the first book in years, that I bought, without ever hearing about it, without seeing any review, nor ever hearing about the subject. It was a slow book release period, so I was just looking around at the bookstore, and when I picked this book up, and saw that the guy was from San Diego, which is where my son lives. I decided to give it a shot, if for no other reason, than to get some info, to discuss with my son. The story line, of a kid in the ghetto, going from selling $35,000.00 worth of cocaine a week, to being a head chef in Las Vegas, peeked my interest. The beginning of the story, sounded like the same old, "poor ghetto kid, wrong crowd, the world's against me" crap. I was tired of hearing, that a kid from a one-parent family, has an "excuse" to run with the wrong crowd. All you have to do, is look at basketball star Isiah Thomas's life story, where, despite living in the absolute worst part of Chicago, his single mom, went so far as to get a gun, to keep the wrong crowd, from getting her son. To move ahead a few years, to when Jeff's arrested, and goes away to prison for a long time, is where this book started to get interesting. Jeff found all the ghetto slang, and "homie's", in the world, wouldn't erase the rude awakening, and isolation, he found in prison. Who would of thought, that a "lost" cause like Jeff, would find a love for cooking food, (Instead of cocaine!) in prison. Not your normal, macho, music video, subject matter. Jeff discovered, a personal goal, to pursue for the future, which was still, many years away, on the other side of a prison wall. The writing style, is not the greatest, and I did not notice, any "written with", or co-author credit. So if Jeff wrote it all himself, that would be the reason for it.Read more ›
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. JEFFREY MCMAHON TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 7, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I first heard about Jeff Henderson from his television show The Chef Jeff Project in which Henderson, who spent 10 years in jail for drug trafficking, mentors troubled young adults in the area of fine cooking with the hope of steering them in the right direction and hooking them up for jobs.

My expectations for the book were not high, as I feared this celebrity chef had simply "told his story" to a ghost writer who did a quick job to make a book for money.

My presumption couldn't have been farther from the truth. As I later found out, Henderson began conceiving of the book, and writing it himself, decades ago in prison, haunted by the guilt that selling drugs to people on the streets was not a victimless crime but one of such devastation that he someday wanted to redeem himself and atone for his wrongs by imparting a powerful story of his self-reinvention and ultimate redemption.

His writing voice is powerful and authentic as he explains his rise as a drug dealer, his struggles in prison, and his excruciating post-prison growing pains as he uses all of his might to transform himself into a world-class chef (which he does), develop his personality into a leader, a mentor, and a statesman, disavowing his past criminal ways, and his dedication to his family and community.

This book is free of cant and sanctimonious self-aggrandizement. Henderson tells the story straight with no affectations. He uses his real voice, street vernacular and all. For me, hearing his story was even more powerful because I listened to the audio version, which Henderson reads himself. His voice has all the power such a compelling tale of transformation deserves. Highly recommended.
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