Chef Malachi “Spank” Jenkins and Roberto “News” Smith– two former rival gang members, opened up on August 1 about the creation of Trap Kitchen L.A. Jenkins and Smith revealed their humble beginnings and gainthe ing attention of big names while overcoming their differences.
Jenkins is a member of the Crip, while Smith is a member of rival gang, the Bloods. They explained how they honestly used their street influence and notoriety to drum up business.
“We really came from the trap. The only thing we did to turn a negative to a positive was, switch out the product. The product happened to be food,” Jenkins said. “Everybody loves food. Food is a universal language.”
The universal language they spoke began by cooking and selling food out of Smith’s grandmother’s house back in 2013. They built their business off a spin on the word “trap,” turning it from something with a negative connotation to an acronym of’ Take Risks and Prosper.’ They went from feeding members of the community weekly to having people bustling in and out daily.
“You would have thought we [was] in there selling drugs, the way the house was always jumping,” Smith explained how they named their place, “Someone was always by the door trying to pick up a plate. You got people running out of the house, you know? So, the look of it was a trap, but we were in the kitchen. So, it was Trap Kitchen. We just went with it.”
The demand for their soul food meals continued to grow.
“It was a lot for us just to be cooking out of a household, you know like we had to keep changing houses or apartment buildings or finding somebody to let us use their kitchen to conduct our business because it would bring a lot of traffic and our family members,” Jenkins expressed. “They really weren’t used to that type of traffic coming to their house. So, it was fun. We really trapped, though…we would take over anybody’s kitchen, like anybody’s kitchen for real, like we were selling food and we jump from house to house, and we often sometimes will be in two different locations.”
The expansion of demand was so significant that Trap Kitchen L.A. moved to Portland to begin sharing their food from a food truck. With meals consisting of fried chicken, seafood, mac and cheese, and other soul food delicacies, their business gained the attention of celebrities like Tyga, Nipsey Hussle, The Game, Amine, and CJ McCollum of the Portland Trail Blazers, R&B singer Tyrese and even Run of RUN-DMC.
“I guess at the time Rev. Run was helping him write his book, but he didn’t tell me who was the guest,” Jenkins said. “He wanted food for 12 people. So, when Rev. Run walked through the door, I was like, ‘Yo, that’s crazy.’”
With Jenkins having professional training from cooking school and Smith having extensive hands-on knowledge from jumping right into the kitchen, their popularity has peaked to new heights with television appearances on “BET, Vice, Chew, and VH1’s Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party.”
“Never stop hustling. You got to keep going. “You just got to be able to handle whatever situation that you go through, and it’s not for the weak-hearted, bro. Don’t get in it if you’re not already fully into it…just trying to make a couple of dollars. Like if you really into this, it’s going to take you places,” Jenkins and Smith encouraged.