Friday, January 30, 2009

Cooked by Jeff Henderson

Jeff Henderson was known as "Hard Head" on the streets. As a child, he learned to steal, lie and cheat from his grandfather. Like many others in South Central L.A., he felt the world owed him an easy life. He found that life by selling drugs.

Henderson didn't think about the lives he was destroying, he knew they'd get the drugs from somewhere, he might as well be the one to get rich supplying them. He became a big time dealer, with many fancy cars, houses and girls. He couldn't imagine his life being any better.

But it all came to an end when Henderson was arrested and finally sentenced to 19 1/2 years in prison.

Henderson readily admits that prison was the best thing that ever happened to him. He stumbled into kitchen duty and learned to love cooking. His efforts to learn the art and business of the restaurant trade earned him an early release. He began at the bottom and worked his way up through restaurant after restaurant until he became the first African-American executive chef at Los Vegas' Bellagio Hotel. His story is an uplifting tale of a bad man gone good.

While the theme of Cooked is food, his writing style will not appeal to Food Network fans. His offensive street language is repetitive to the point of being mind-numbing. His portrait of the hopelessness of life on the streets of L.A. is chilling. But readers who persevere will find that life doesn't have to be what you think you are given, you can overcome even grinding poverty and gang violence and become successful and respected.

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