Join Flip My Food as we celebrate Black History month, and the accomplishments and undertakings of some of our favorite chefs. Read further to explore the stories and diversity that have developed their remarkable careers. Chef Jeff Henderson
Chef Jeff Henderson rose from humble beginnings in South Central Los Angeles to become the first African American executive chef at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. He has gone on to become a successful TV host with a cable show on the Food Network, a nationally syndicated series called, Family Style with Chef Jeff and the host of Flip My Food. When he isn’t cooking on TV he’s a highly sought-after motivational speaker, sharing the secrets of realizing your potential at schools, organizations, and Fortune 500 companies across the country.
The American Tasting Institute has named him Las Vegas Chef of the Year.
HarperCollins published his life story in the New York Times best selling book “Cooked.” His success as an author landed him on Oprah. Shortly after that TV appearance, Sony Pictures bought the rights to his book and his life story, which is currently being developed into a major motion picture.
Jeff has taken advantage of his exposure to inspire disadvantaged young adults and at-risk youth. In addition to his high profile speaking engagements, he makes regular appearances at prisons and inner-city youth programs all around the United States.
Today Jeff shares his knowledge and excitement for food through his speaking career, his cooking shows, and his popular cookbooks. His story has been featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, ABC World News Tonight, The Steve Harvey Show, USA Today, People Magazine, New York Times, Newsweek, and the Washington Post.
Jeff Currently resides in Las Vegas where he spends as much quality time as possible with his wife Stacy and their five children.
Chef Jennifer Booker
Guest Chef Georgia Grown
Born in Michigan, Jennifer Hill Booker grew up in Florida, attended college in Oklahoma, and has lived in Europe, but it’s the South that has her heart. Booker has a bachelor of arts degree in organizational communication from the University of Tulsa, an associate’s degree in applied science-culinary arts from Oklahoma State University, and a cuisine de base certificate from Le Cordon Bleu Paris. She is the executive chef and owner of Your Resident Gourmet, LLC, a personal chef and catering company.
A former culinary instructor for Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts Atlanta and a culinary arts program director for the Grayson Technical Program at Grayson High School, Booker is qualified to write about proper cooking techniques, flavor combinations, and food pairings. She teaches culinary technique classes at Williams-Sonoma, is a contributing columnist for Basil Magazine, and serves as the host of the magazine’s radio show. She has written articles and recipes for Jezebel, Atlanta Social Season, Vegetarian Times, Our Town Magazine, UrbanSocialites, Southern Seasons Magazine, ESSENCE Magazine, SOLO Woman, Sister2Sister Magazine, and Points North Atlanta.
In order to keep her culinary skills sharp, she serves as the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show’s executive celebrity chef for cooking personalities Paula Deen and the Neelys. She has made guest appearances at Chef Joe Randall’s Cooking School and the Chefs of the World: A Taste of Fame annual event. She also volunteers her time and resources to the Africa’s Children’s Fund. Booker lives in Lilburn, Georgia, where she feels right at home. Click Here to get her book Field Peas to Foie Gras
Pat Neely, the BBQ King, was introduced to the culinary world at the age of 11 in his mother’s kitchen and by grilling on the backporch with his grandfathers. By the age of 15, he was working in his uncle’s BBQ restaurant in Memphis, TN. It was at that point he fell in love with the art of preparing delicious meals.
By the time he was 23, Pat opened his first restaurant, Neely’s BBQ, which started a long and successful career as a restaurateur. Over the years, Pat would open three more restaurants, run 7 concessions in the Memphis NBA arena and operate a location in the Nashville Airport. In 2011, he and his partners opened Neely’s Barbecue Parlor in New York City.
In 2007, Food Network invited Pat to co-host his own nationally televised TV show, “Down Home with the Neelys.” The show was an immediate success becoming the highest rate debuting program in Food Network’s “In the Kitchen” block. With a hit show under his belt, Pat soon moved to prime time by co-hosting “ Road Tasted with the Neelys.”
Success in television brought Pat a passionate fan base offered Pat the opportunity to share his experiences and recipes by with three successful cookbooks: “Down Home with the Neelys,” “The Neely’s Celebration Cookbook” and “Back Home with the Neelys.”
Pat’s amazing journey has allowed him to perform live cooking demonstrations before thousands of fans around the country, to speak on topics such as family, entrepreneurship and mentoring and, best of all, to share his life stories with the hope of inspiring others to reach out and work to achieve their own dreams.
When Pat isn’t on the road sharing his food and his messages, you can find him grilling great recipes at home or enjoying a round on the golf course.
Guest Chef Martha's Place
Born on June 30, 1947, in Montgomery, Alabama, Martha Hawkins dropped out of school at 16 and endured serious financial and emotional setbacks as a single mother. After being released from psychiatric care, she pulled her life together and opened the popular Martha's Place restaurant in 1988. Since recognized for her work with other single mothers, Hawkins released her memoir/cookbook in 2010.
Martha Hawkins was born at home to parents Willie and Sallie in segregated Montgomery, Alabama, on June 30, 1947. Although her twin sister did not survive childbirth, she became part of a bustling household as the 10th of 12 children. Hawkins was as a tomboy in her early years, but her mother's cooking for their large family began to fascinate her. Though too poor to buy much food, Sallie could transform a basket of vegetables from the back garden into a feast for family and friends.
Following her mother's lead, Hawkins learned to cook when she was 12. She attended Booker T. Washington High School, but dropped out at 16 to get married because she was pregnant. Hawkins was bereft of many basic living skills as a teenager, becoming pregnant twice before gaining an understanding of how it happened. She divorced her first husband after catching him cheating on her, but became involved in a string of bad relationships and had three more sons.
Hawkins lost her job at a glass company, and eventually her family was evicted from their home for non-payment of bills. Along with having to go on welfare, Hawkins endured a series of health issues, including a kidney removal and ruptured appendix, that kept her in and out of hospitals for most of the 1970s. She eventually attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on prescription drugs, but was spared death when her youngest son found her and rushed her to the hospital.
After being admitted to a psychiatric facility, Hawkins became empowered by her Christian faith. She realized she had been swept along by various relationships in her life, including those with her doctors, because she had not been entirely honest with them. After leaving the facility, she obtained her GED and took counseling courses. In addition to her mother, Hawkins drew inspiration from Georgia Gilmore, another Montgomery resident who had been active in the Civil Rights Movement and served such notable figures as Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy from the restaurant she ran out of her home.
Hawkins secured a loan and the opportunity to fix up an old house in Montgomery for use as her dream restaurant. With assistance from the community, Martha's Place was open for business by 1988. According to Hawkins, when a local paper printed an article on the succulent Deep South fare offered there, "the lines went down the block and have stayed that way pretty much ever since."
In 2004, she was awarded the Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame Award to spotlight her achievements and her work with Martha Hawkins Ministries, an organization that helps single parents and low-income children. Her 2010 cookbook-cum-memoir, Finding Martha's Place: My Journey Through Sin, Salvation, and Lots of Soul Food, served up the story of her journey in her homespun vernacular, along with some mouthwatering recipes.