Trap Kitchen: Unlikely friends turn lives around, unite to create great food
05/04/2016 6:04 pm PDT
Meet the guys behind Trap Kitchen: Two unlikely friends turn their lives around with the help of some delicious food.
Compton, California: Malachi Jenkins grew up on these mean streets and he was up to no good when he became a gang-banger with the Crips. Malachi has been locked up at least six times.
On the streets, Roberto Smith was called "Bad News," and he fit that nickname when he was running with the Piru Bloods. Roberto had been arrested for selling marijuana.
Both were heading down the same dark road.
Even though they were in rival gangs, the two became tight after meeting through a mutual friend.
They were sick and tired of living the hard and dangerous gangster life.
Malachi's mother encouraged her son to go to make a change, go to culinary school and become a chef. After all, he already had a reputation for the being best cook on the block.
Then tragedy struck. Malachi saw what his future would be like if he did not refocus, fast.
"I lost one of my good younger friends," said Malachi. "He ended up getting killed and I end up rushing him to the hospital where he died in my car."
The death of his friend hit Malachi hard and he dropped out of cooking school.
He was headed back to the only life he knew, when his buddy Roberto made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
"Do we go to the streets like we know how to do?" said Malachi. "And he's like 'Nah, bro, that's not an option. We can't get into anymore trouble 'cause I know that's fast money, that's quick money to go hustle in the streets.' Like, 'Let's try to sell food.'"
All those years of Roberto hustling on the corner taught him how to be a businessman. And Malachi had a lot of friends on social media who wanted to try his down-home cooking. So with a dollar and a dream, they were ready to feed the streets.
"So we went to the grocery store," said Malachi. "I think the meal was shrimp and chicken enchilada pie with black beans and rice, and we sell it for $8. I made a post saying 'This is what we're cooking and this is where you get it, from 4 p.m. to woop di woop, and this is how you get to the address.
"Within two hours we were sold out. So I was like 'Wow, I'm hooked,'" said Malachi. "I'm like 'How far can we take this?'"
Fast-forward three years later: Inside a house in Compton is the famous food shack in the 'hood called Trap Kitchen.
A "trap" is street slang for where illegal drugs are sold. But to be clear, no drugs are sold here, just good food. Malachi and Roberto, former gang rivals, now use this kitchen to make money the right way. They've even flipped the word "trap" too.
"For us 'trap' meant 'Take Risks And Prosper,' so that's what we told ourselves every day: Take risks and prosper," said Roberto.
Now Trap Kitchen is not just a popular eating spot in Compton, but in Hollywood too.
"We just recently cooked for the whole cast of 'Barber Shop.' We've cooked for Justin Bieber, Chris Brown," said Malachi.
And these boyz in tha hood want the world to know there are good things that come straight outta compton.
"Since day one we wanted to strive to be a big influence on the world, not just Compton or California," said Roberto.
"I bet there would be a lot less wars if everyone was eating," said Malachi. "Food makes people happy."