There's a Lot of Dreams in Here – A Reflection of My Experience with The Chef Jeff Project

April 06, 2022 | 907 Views

There's a Lot of Dreams in Here – A Reflection of My Experience with The Chef Jeff Project

Marisa McLaughlin

Senior Director of Operations Services | Firehouse Subs

“There's a lot of dreams in here…” Those moving words were uttered by a 15-year old formerly incarcerated youth explaining their ghost kitchen, which supports more than 30 Las Vegas food trucks. The food truck owners are all entrepreneurs in their own right, chasing their dreams with the help of the kitchen attached to The Chef Jeff Project. This kitchen is partially staffed by those formerly incarcerated or disenfranchised youth who participate in The Chef Jeff Project. 

Chef Jeff Project participants and CHART Volunteers

So who is Chef Jeff? Jeff Henderon started his culinary career in prison. During his 10 years of incarceration, he learned his passion for food, as well as a realization that food can make a difference. He launched The Chef Jeff project to fulfill his mission of Changing Lives Through Food.

This is a safe place for struggling youth, where Jeff works to form emotional connections with these young people who want to change their lives. Oftentimes, however, outside of this building, they don't have the structure or support system to do so. Jeff concentrates on these kids, giving them not only culinary skills, but life skills that they do not see modeled in their everyday life.

Marisa works on a side dish at Las Vegas Service EventSpending the day prepping, cooking, and delivering meals with these kids was a powerful experience. As I watched the “chefs in training” model, Jeff’s behaviors and leadership helped me understand that these teens needed structure with someone who shared the same life experiences and lived similar trauma. Some of these teens were in jail in their early teens and NEVER had any structure or knowledge that they could be something other than those they saw around them. Jeff, through his guidance, helps these teens celebrate each other's successes, and teaches them how to do things that many people take for granted: look people in the eyes when they are talking to you, stand up proud, believe in your words, and articulate clearly.

As I watched Chef Jeff and the team work together to support the dreamers with the food trucks, I realized that those entrepreneurs weren’t the only ones with dreams… Those participating in The Chef Jeff project now have the ability AND access to fulfill their big dreams too. 

To learn more about the Chef Jeff Project, visit https://www.thechefjeffproject.org/.
See more photos in the CHART Las Vegas Service Event Facebook Album.

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