The Reentry Expert, Chef Jeff Henderson
Founder and Chief Empowerment Officer
California native Jeff Henderson, known as Chef Jeff --“Vegas’ Bad Boy of Cuisine,” is the New York Times Best-Selling author of Cooked, was the first African-American executive chef at the Bellagio, has been a well-known Food Network television personality, and is a sought-after human potential and reentry speaker.
Henderson started his culinary career in the most unlikely place: prison. When he was released after serving nearly a decade on the inside, he started working in Los Angeles for renowned Chef Robert Gadsby, as a dishwasher. With his foot in the door, Henderson was determined to make the most of this unique opportunity. He studied his mentor and worked harder than anyone else in the kitchen. Under Gadsby's tutelage, Henderson soon moved from dishwashing to the prep station, to desserts. Henderson was focused on the job. At work, he was always the first in and the last out. Whenever he got paid, he bought the latest tools and cookbooks. Henderson stayed driven, working at Gadsby's restaurant for a year, before leaving to make his way through the world of fine-dining, which included stints as a sous-chef at the Coronado Island Marriott, as well as chef tournant and banquet chef at L.A.'s Hotel Bel-Air.
Hearing about the booming restaurant scene in Las Vegas, Henderson left Los Angeles to head for Vegas, to seek an opportunity to work at one of the top hotels on the strip. He was hired at Caesars Palace and eventually became the first African-American Chef de Cuisine to run restaurants at the hotel. In 2001, the American Tasting Institute named Henderson Las Vegas Chef of the Year. He took advantage of his exposure and started a private company in Los Angeles, called Posh Urban Cuisine. A year later, Henderson returned to Las Vegas, where he became the first African-American Executive Chef at the world-renowned Bellagio.
In 2007, Harper Collins published Henderson’s memoir, Cooked, which landed him on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Shortly after the show aired, Sony Pictures bought the rights to his life story. At the end of Henderson’s book tour, things began to take off. This led him to leave his post at the Bellagio to do private chef work, consulting, and public speaking. The same year, he launched a new reality show on The Food Network The Chef Jeff Project. The show followed Jeff, as he took a group of disadvantaged young adults and had them work for his private dining company, to teach them cooking and life skills.
Henderson shares his knowledge and excitement for food through his cooking shows and cookbooks. In 2009, Henderson published his first cookbook, Chef Jeff Cooks (Simon & Schuster). In 2011, he released his second cookbook, America I AM --Pass It Down Cookbook (Hay House/Smiley Books), which is a collection of recipes that preserve African Americans' food legacy. In 2013, Henderson released his first self-help book, If You Can See It, You Can Be It (Hay House/Smiley Books). In 2012, Henderson’s second cooking show, Beat The Chefs, premiered, followed by Family Style with Chef Jeff. In 2017, he wrapped up hosting duties on Flip My Food with Chef Jeff. Family Style with Chef Jeff currently airs on the Z Living Network.
Henderson’s story has been featured on Oprah's Life Class, Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, and ABC World News Tonight. He has also been in several major publications, including USA Today, People Magazine, New York Times, Newsweek and The Washington Post. Chef Jeff resides in Las Vegas with his wife Stacy and their children.