From Crack Dealer to Top Vegas Chef

You CAN turn your life around and make an honest living. Maybe going to prison to have time to figure it out is what it takes, and that’s exactly what Jeff Henderson did. Henderson became the first African-American chef at the Bellagio casino in Las Vegas before branding himself as “Chef Jeff” and starting The Henderson Group Inc., a catering, publishing, multimedia and consulting firm.

Jeff Henderson wasn’t just a crack cocaine dealer, he was the best crack cocaine dealer of his era. In 1980s San Diego, Henderson was known for his Mercedes convertible, his Rolex and his straight-from-Rodeo-Drive fashion, as well as for having the best product, the best connections and a money-back guarantee. He was making up to $35,000 a week.

“The same traits that a successful drug dealer has are the same traits any legitimate entrepreneur has,” Henderson said. “You have a product, you have a marketing plan, you have a vision, you build relationships. You outsmart, out-strategize the competition.”

In prison, it took Jeff a few years of positive people, yes, positive people in prison, getting in his ear until one day he just accepted responsibility and gave up the victim card. And then he started changing. One inmate told him, “Jeff you’re a smart guy.” No one ever told him he was smart. The inmate said, “When you were on the street, you had all the traits of success and all the principles of a legitimate businessman. You just had a bad product.”

Henderson said, “Drug dealing is not a part of my life I’m proud of. But I use my story to convince at-risk people that they have the gift, traits, ability to create their own business. I tell kids I’m still a homeboy, I’m still a hustler — I just changed the products and the terminology.”

There IS hope for you to get on the straight and narrow. Clean up your act, follow Henderson’s example, and avoid prison. The food there isn’t all that great now that Jeff Henderson is out.


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