A Dish of Inspiration from "Chef Jeff"

Food Network's Chef Jeff Henderson talks to Beliefnet about how food helped him find his life's purpose.

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Do you think religious faith is important for at-risk youth, or is having passion enough?

Yeah, I think having a connection to a sort of spirituality that works for you makes you a better person. Young people today just have a disregard for religion and spiritual faith because they’re disgruntled with the churches, the preachers and the lifestyles of some of these mega-churches.

I believe that, in order to bring a young person who comes from adverse backgrounds, who has no confidence and hope in themselves or this country, that you have to work on changing their thought process first.


How do you define manhood?

In my former life, I defined manhood by having the most cars, the most beautiful women, money which brought status and credibility in my circle and in the world that I was living in.

Today, I define a man as a person, a man of purpose, a man of structure, a man of conviction, someone who values his family, his children, his community, and is not valued by what he has materialistically.


Having missed out on having loving male figures in your life as a young man, how do you show love to your wife and children, to the young people that you mentor?

I try to give them what I never got. I’ve seen and been around examples of love and fatherhood. When I speak to young men especially, and my sons, I hug them. I encourage them. I reinforce them. You know, I let them know that I believe in them and I see potential.

I know the smile that it brings to a young man’s face when I tell them I love him and I care about him, and I see potential in him. And I truly believe the foundation of change and success, whether it’s fatherhood, personal, or professional success, is that you have to find your purpose before you can have a dream. And, you know, once you do that, then things begin to manifest in your life.


What do you think is the first most basic thing that a kid who’s heading toward trouble needs to hear to make them change course?

Tough love talk about the consequences of making bad choices, because a lot of young people make wrong choices as far as gangs, drugs, and crime, but they don’t know the consequence. They don’t know the outcome. They don’t know the impact it has on community, on victims.

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Holly Lebowitz Rossi
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