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Cookbook Review: “Trap Kitchen” by Malachi Jenkins and Roberto Smith

“When two former members of Los Angeles’ most nefarious rival gangs decided to unite under one oven, they had no idea that they would be creating an empire.”
~ From the back cover of Trap Kitchen: Bangin’ Recipes from Compton

The Trap Kitchen, a restaurant with locations in Los Angeles and Portland, was founded in 2013, originally in Compton, Calif. Malachi “Chef Spank”, a Crip, partnered with his best-friend Roberto “Sous Chef News”, a Blood, with the goal of using food to change the path their lives were taking in the streets. Their business provides five-star restaurant meals without the five-star price.

Starting out as pop-up restaurants, The Trap Kitchen has grown in popularity, with celebrities and residents alike flocking to their locations. Trap Kitchen was inspired by this success.

Cookbook Review: "Trap Kitchen" by Malachi Jenkins and Roberto Smith

Summary of Trap Kitchen

This is the story of how two former gang members, from rival gangs, decided to change their lives by coming together and sharing food with their friends and the community. This book sports many urban dishes from their restaurants, but also a bit of their story.

What Worked for Me

This cookbook is full of personality. From typos that grow out of how they probably talk in real life to word choice in general. This is not a squeaky clean cookbook from Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart!

The photography and how it integrates with the overall design is beautiful. I very much enjoyed leafing through the book before reading it.

What Didn’t Work for Me

The cussing. My goodness, do they kiss their mommas with those mouths? I understand that cussing is part of their street cred, but I found it very jarring.

I also didn’t like how the recipes were displayed. You first got the instructions and had to turn the page to find the ingredients. This was made more confusing because the ingredients for the recipe on the page before ended up being next to the instructions for the next recipe.

What I’d Love to See in the Second Edition

If they do come out with a second edition, although I don’t see why they would, I’d rethink the recipe layout so that ingredients and instructions are more clearly together.


If you’re interested in street soul food and aren’t disturbed by bad grammar, bad language, and confusing layout, this is a lovely book to look at. In addition, some of the recipes look quite tasty, such as Byrd Gang (chicken rice), You Were My Cinnamon Apple (Apple Cinnamon Corn Bread), and Chicken & Waffles.

Rating for Trap Kitchen

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Full Title: Trap Kitchen: Bangin’ Recipes from Compton
Author: Malachi Jenkins and Roberto Smith with Marisa Mendez
Format: Paperback, 120 pages
Publisher: Vodka & Milk
Language: English (with explatives)
ISBN-10: 0997146265
ISBN-13: 978-0997146264

Trap Kitchen cover

Pick up your copy on Amazon.com here.

NOTE: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If you’ve read past book reviews, you’ll know that I don’t pull my punches when I believe they are warranted. I also try to provide balanced information so you can make your own decision to read or not read the book, even if you disagree with my opinion.

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About the author

Carma Spence has been experimenting in the kitchen since she was four years old and loves trying out new recipe ideas. She is the author of Bonkers for Bundt Cakes and Your Perfect Pie, as well as author and contributor to several more non-food-related books. With Carma's Cookery, she is taking her passion for empowering people and blending it with her passion for cooking, gift-giving and entertaining.

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