When two young men who were former members of rival gangs in Compton get together, the end result may surprise you. The two men, Malachi Jenkins (aka Spank) and Roberto Smith (aka News) end up finding something positive in their lives through their love of food. The result is their guerrilla-style food biz, Trap Kitchen.  Initially, setting up shop in Jenkin's mother’s apartment, the duo engineered a to-go and catering business utilizing Instagram that garnered media coverage from the likes of Vice and followings from celebrities such as Snoop Dogg. That journey and their recipes are the basis for “Trap Kitchen - Bangin’ Recipes From Compton.”

The cook book opens with Jenkins telling his story how he fell in love with cooking through helping his mom in the kitchen and continuing that enjoyment in camp, with the Boy Scouts and on his own while his family members were out of the house.  In his youth, Jenkins doled out bacon and eggs during sleepovers, his speciality spaghetti for his fellow Scouts and tacos for himself. As he grew up in Compton, Jenkins found his fair share of trouble with the law, however, a budding entrepreneurial streak emerged after high school as he shuttled between Los Angeles and Las Vegas trying to make a living and pursue a culinary career. When he connected with Smith, Trap Kitchen materialized and the result is social media history. 

“Trap Kitchen” transitions from bio into a variety of Trap Kitchen recipes that also includes some additional commentary by Jenkins. The recipes are straight from the “Hood" and represents what is being served and how it is being served in the African American community.  I found the recipes intriguing. They are not from scratch creations but instead utilize inexpensive store shelve products to make their dishes. For example, the Trap Mac (4 cheese mac and cheese) uses Campbell’s cheddar cheese soup and roasted garlic mushroom soup along with Carnation evaporated milk and Kraft cheese whiz as some of the ingredients in this carb fueled dish.

The recipes listed in the book are not complex but instead short and get right to the point. One of the recipes that caught my eye was how to make Apple Gravy.  I never thought of adding apple to my own gravy mix when I’m sautéing the ingredients, now I will. The standard Chicken and Waffles recipe (using a blueberry waffle mix) is in the book as well as a variety of chicken and pork dishes.  The Trap chefs utilize chicken and turkey chops (a cut I wasn’t familiar with) to create “The Chop Boyz with Turk” and “Chip Up On It,” two well seasoned dishes made on a cast iron griddle.  With additional recipes such as “Too Much Sauce BBQ Chicken” and “Pop Pop Potato Salad”  you get the street credibility in the name and the taste in these Trap Kitchen classics.  However, their signature recipe is their Pineapple Bowls.  Once served every Friday out of their kitchen, the carved out half pineapples are stuffed with Jasmine Rice, pineapple and combined with your choice of seafood, meat or chicken.  Also, there is a vegan version of this dish with sautéed vegetables. 

If there is a fault with “Trap Kitchen", it’s the use of profanity throughout the book. The chefs are trying to keep it real but it is not necessary and degrades the legitimacy of the book. As their business continues to grow, they should move in a different direction and rely more on their story of overcoming the odds instead of shooting straight from the hip with the bad language. Further, the book seems a bit rushed. There are a few editing errors and I’m not crazy about the layout of the book.  However, "Trap Kitchen" opens the door to a culinary scene that is “Straight out of Compton" and goes beyond the Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles menu that many folks in the Los Angeles area are accustomed to.  “Trap Kitchen" shows the creativity of people cooking on a limited budget, a feel good story of a pair of chefs who turned their lives around and the entrepreneurial spirit in the African American community. 

“Trap Kitchen - Banging’ Recipes from Compton” is $24.95. For more information about Trap Kitchen and to purchase the book, visit https://www.trapkitchen.com