Through his Chef Jeff Project, he has taken on at-risk young adults, committing to turning their lives around by putting them to work in his catering company, Posh Urban Cuisine.
Isn't it hazardous risking your business by having former inmates involved in its success or failure? Of course, it is the successfully rehabilitated inmate who answers the question, but perhaps not in the way you might expect.
"Believe me, more people who don't have a record backfire on me than people who do have records," said Henderson.
He tries to ensure success by looking for motivated young adults with "untapped potential" for efforts like his Chef Jeff Project, a Food Network reality series that made its debut in 2008.
"I love to plant seeds," he said.
He has many of them sprouting all over the place. His latest TV stint is on a Game Show Network program called "Beat the Chef," in which household cooks whip up traditional family recipes as they go up against culinary pros with a panel of judges rating the results. "If they beat us chefs, they get $25,000."
Henderson's own cooking style is a blend of city and country, such as his Cornbread-Crusted Lamb Chops and Molasses-braised Beef Short Ribs. "I'm known for my California-French cuisine with a southern flair to it. I'm known for taking southern dishes and putting an upscale swing to it."
A quick search of his name online, plus a look at the recipe list in his 2008 "Chef Jeff Cooks" cookbook, turns up recipes for dishes like Crispy Crab Cakes, Sweet Potato Soup, Spicy Turkey Chili, Rigatoni Bolognese and West Coast Chopped Salad, among others.
Henderson is still cooking but not working as a restaurant chef at the moment. But he has plans underway to launch an 80 to 100-seat restaurant in either Los Angeles or Las Vegas (where he now lives with his wife and three children).
The restaurant will serve two aims: cooking up his signature dishes with as many locally-sourced ingredients as possible; and handing out breaks to young folk who are trying to turn lives around.
"It will also be a training ground and a kitchen that offers second chances to socially challenged young people -- people who may have a felony and can't get a break or may have barriers to employment.
"I'm talking with lots of people. It's what I love to do. I love to cook. But, equally, I love to inspire people. It's a dual love affair."
Reach Douglas Imbrogno at doug...@cnpapers.com or 304-348-3017.