Rival Gang Members Squash Their Beef to Create One of Compton’s Most Popular Restaurants
Two former rival gang members have joined forces, combining their passions for food and serving their community.
Malachi Jenkins, a Crip, and Roberto Smith, a Blood, are the masterminds behind Trap Kitchen, Compton, California’s underground restaurant that has become extremely popular.
Jenkins and Smith met through a mutual friend and decided that making a quick dollar from selling drugs wasn’t the best route to take.
“All money ain’t good money,” Jenkins told Fox LA. “It was working for me until I started getting in trouble, so I had to find something legit to do.”
Jenkins’ passion for food started when he was just 16.
“My mom was always at work, so me and my sister had to fend for ourselves,” he told Munchies. “We had groceries, so I learned how to whip up ABC-123-type of simple meals out of just watching my grandma and mom cook.”
To sharpen his cooking skills, he enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu in Las Vegas but dropped out to become a personal chef. When Jenkins, also known as Chef Spanky, eventually started posting photos of his meals on Instagram, people began to place orders and wanted the meals delivered.
“It just spread like wild fire. I got hooked and I got addicted to it and kept doing it,” he told Fox LA.
Both Jenkins and Smith hire their friends from the neighborhood to show them they can make a lot of money selling food to deter them from selling drugs.
One employee, Larry Williams, just got out of prison for assault.
“It’s a good opportunity. Coming home from prison you don’t have options to get a job or work or make any money,” Williams told the Huffington Post.
The two chefs start their day by posting a menu on Instagram, and people place their order via phone. They go through 30 to 40 pounds of meat daily and have customers who come back day after day.
Their kitchen is so busy that cops assumed they were selling drugs out of the house.
“As they [customers] were pulling off, an unmarked car pulled them over and it happened to be some detectives and they was like ‘Yea, we got a tip that they was selling drugs outta that house,’” Jenkins told The Huffington Post. “Cops checked the bag because they didn’t believe they bought food from Trap Kitchen — but they didn’t find anything.”
Their most popular dish is the Deadliest Catch Pineapple Boat, which sells for $25. It’s a hearty meal containing king crab, lobster, jumbo shrimp, salmon over rice and covered in teriyaki, sriracha and green onions.
Celebrities such as The Roots, Kendrick Lamar, Rev. Run, and Tyrese frequent Trap Kitchen to enjoy the pair’s cooking.
In the near future, Trap Kitchen hopes to open as a brick-and-mortar restaurant for customers to come in and leisurely lounge while eating their soulful dishes.
Jenkins said he wants to be a role model for the young men of Compton.
“We’re just trying to set examples for young men out here,” he said. “Try to have your own mind, that’s what we did… I want young people to not be scared to create their own lane, create their own vision and future and make profit off of it,” Jenkins told Huffington Post.