Sunday, October 19, 2008

My New Obsession: The Chef Jeff Project

This morning I was checking out the tv to see what fabulousness recorded over the past few days. I've recorded a ton of new Food Network shows and was excited to see new Ina Garten (I LOOOOOOVE her!) and some of the other new offerings, including a show I had briefly read about called "The Chef Jeff Project".

Here's the show synopsis from the Food Network's Chef Jeff page: "Jeff Henderson grew up on the tough streets of South Central L.A. and San Diego. At 19 he was running a $35,000-a-week cocaine operation. At 24, Jeff was arrested and sent to prison, where he spent the next ten years. While incarcerated, Jeff discovered a passion for cooking and the drive to turn his life around. Jeff became Executive Chef at Café Bellagio in Las Vegas, wrote a bestselling book, and now he is focusing on giving back. In The Chef Jeff Project, he takes six at-risk young adults and commits to turning their lives around by putting them to work in his catering company, Posh Urban Cuisine. He arms them with the knowledge, the skills and, ultimately, the opportunity for a new life with a culinary career." So basically, guy is bad, goes to jail, learns a skill, gets out, gets good, wants to help at risk kids to not make the same mistakes. Interesting idea, and almost a little well, deep, for TFN. But let's get something straight -- I really like this show, and I've only seen the first episode!

There are 6 "kids" who have either been in jail (all the boys), been on drugs or sold them, a 24-year-old woman with 4 (!) children, and another who, at just 18 is living on her own with no support from home. They're tough but vulnerable (Adam scares me a little, but I loved his "South Central Sushi" with Spam. If he can control his temper and emotions, he looks like he could be a great asset in the kitchen).

For more info on Chef Jeff's catering business, Posh Urban Cuisine, check out this link to his website: For info on the show, click here:

I don't know what it is that excites me so much about this show, except that Chef Jeff seems like he's really trying to do some good. Nowadays, kids come out of culinary school think that they are all executive chefs. Really, they're just dishwashers with skills, but don't try to tell them that. Respect and skill in the kitchen is learned over long, tedious hours doing absurd grunt work and being smelly, dirty, and generally in need of a good shower. Culinary school, while a great way to get a leg up, no more qualifies you to be exec chef than a bachelor's degree entitles you to be a corporate CEO. Chef Jeff is starting these kids even more basic than c-school. They are production cooks, a sous (though not officially the title on this show), and a dishwasher (Kathy-she is my favorite as the show gets started).

New episodes of The Chef Jeff Project air Sunday nights at 10p on The Food Network. Check it out and let me know if you think I'm being a little Pollyanna about the show. I'll be that you'll be hooked.

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