How these rival gang members started a thriving restaurant from a backyard

Abu Mubarik October 04, 2022
Photo: Fox 4 News

Malachi “Chef Spank” Jenkins and Roberto “News” Smith are the founders of Trap Kitchen, a catering business based in Compton, California. Prior to founding Trap Kitchen, the two were rival street gang members.

It all began when Jenkins decided to change the course of his life by being more productive and useful to his community. After weighing his career path options, he decided to pursue a career in culinary due to his interest in cooking and enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas at age 22.

In the course of his studies, he experienced a tragic loss and had to return to Compton, whereupon he linked up with rival gang member Smith. After mulling over their future, they decided to combine their resources and venture into the culinary industry, leading to the founding of Trap Kitchen in 2013.

From the backyard of Smith’s grandmother’s house, they cooked and shared the result on social media. Their first meal was an enchilada pie, which they shared on Instagram and instantly sold out. They delivered the pie directly to people’s doorsteps. They made $300 through their new venture, according to Forbes.

Trap Kitchen was soon being managed by Jenkins, Smith, friend and delivery coordinator Kevin “DJ Kevvy Kev” Burton, and Manager Nisa Ahmad.

They continued Trap Kitchen out of their homes and delivered orders directly to customers. The influence of their kitchen grew beyond Compton, and they soon had celebrities like Tyga, The Game, Kendrick Lamar, and more, as customers.

Today, Trap Kitchen boasts multiple locations in Oakland and Portland, a pop-up in Las Vegas, and three trucks in Los Angeles. They have also expanded their “trap” operation into two cookbooks, with their most recent being Trap Kitchen: Mac N’ All Over The World, which offers more than 50 global mac and cheese recipes and features a foreword by Snoop Dogg.

For those who want to be like the Trap Kitchen founders, their advice is simple. “Believe in yourself. Start where you are and use what you have. Make small steps because you don’t know what could be out there waiting for you,” said Ahmad.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 4, 2022


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