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Chef Jeff captivates FPFC Expo crowd

By
Tim Linden

Celebrity Chef Jeff Henderson enthralled the attendees of the 2024 Fresh Produce and Floral Expo on Wednesday May 1 with his inspiring story of second chances and creating your best self.

family
Produce Achievement Award winner Brad Martin of Perimeter
Sales and Merchandising with members of his family.

Today, Henderson, who is branded as Chef Jeff, is a well-known cook as well as a television personality, bestselling author, entrepreneur, public speaker and developer of several projects helping underserved communities and youth, but he spent his 20s in prison as a convicted drug dealer. The audience listened with rapt attention to his keynote presentation that preceded the one-day produce and floral show held at the Anaheim Convention Center in Southern California.
The breakfast session also featured the presentation of the FPFC Norman H. “Buz” Bolstad Produce Achievement Award to Brad Martin of Perimeter Sales and Merchandising and the group’s Floral Achievement Award to Joanne Torres of B-Fresh Floral. The session also included a retail panel discussion, and an examination of some of California employment laws as well as the federal Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act.

Henderson noted that his latest bestselling book is titled “If You Can See It You Can Be It” which is his take on the “American Dream” and defines his motivation from rising from a dark place in his life to the lofty perch he now enjoys as a well-paid and well-respected member of society.

panel
FPFC Panel: Patrick Kelly, Andy Hamilton, Javier Bautista and
Ryan Presley

He told the audience about his entrepreneurial and leadership skills that were honed on the mean streets of Los Angeles and San Diego as a drug dealer. Though he wasn’t aware of it at the time, the skills he developed in managing diverse people, supplies and his customer base in the illegal drug trade have served him well in the legal industries he has pursued since getting out of prison in the 1990s. In fact, it was in prison that he learned how to cook and developed those talents that launched his career on the right side of the law.

Prison also exposed him to white collar criminals, who he watched and learned from and saw how successful people carried themselves and what they looked at and read. “I grew up in prison,” he said, noting that he achieved his high school degree, read a book for the first time and learned to see the world in a different light.

Those experiences have centered him and given purpose to move forward and help others. He is clearly a believer that it is lack of opportunity and a defined path that keep the have-nots from achieving success. Hence, his work includes “The Chef Jeff Project” with a mission to change the lives of young disadvantaged men and women in the Las Vegas community by teaching them foodservice skills to succeed in that arena. Participants are trained primarily in the art of cooking and take courses in introduction to cooking and baking, restaurant cleaning and sanitation, and the principles of hospitality and customer service.

por la mar
Award winner Joanne Torres of B-Fresh Floral with presenter
Erin Caird of Por La Mar Nursery

Marvin Quebec of Quebec Distributing, Oakland, CA, and last year’s recipient of the produce achievement award made the presentation to Martin. He said Martin has been a tireless supporter of the FPFC and the industry since he joined its ranks almost 50 years ago. In fact, Martin has served many terms on the FPFC board of directors and was the chair about a decade ago. 

In accepting the award, Martin, who started his career in 1966 and launched Perimeter in 1995, quipped that he has been around so long he use to make sales call on Buz Bolstad, the namesake on the award. “Wow, wow, wow,” he said, “receiving this award is really, really special.”

As last year’s recipient, Erin Caird of Por La Mar Nursery, Santa Barbara, CA, presented the Floral Achievement Award to Torres, noting that she has been in the industry for 36 years and an inspiration to the entire floral community. Torres graduated from the University of Texas and started her career with Land O’ Lakes as a merchandiser in grocery stores. Her first floral job was with Florimex Inc., where she worked through the 1990s. She moved on to become marketing director of World Commerce Online, and also worked for Brothers Floral Associates, B and H Flowers and Pacifica Farms. She joined B-Fresh Floral in 2010.

speaker
Keynote speaker Chef Jeff Henderson 

Torres remarked that the FPFC Expo is right in the middle of the Mother’s Day frenzy so her current workdays are crazy as that is a huge holiday for the floral industry. “It’s nice to be recognized,” she said.

Patrick Kelly of The Produce Industry Podcast served as the moderator of a panel that featured Bryan Presley of Albertson’s, Javier Bautista of Northgate Markets and Andy Hamilton of Markon. The panelists explored a number of topics including motivating the multiple generation that make up the workforce and what they each individually do to start the day off right.

Kelly is a big proponent of positive thinking and told the crowd to “embrace your awesomeness.” The panelists each agreed that starting the day in a great frame of mind is crucial to interacting positively with your customers and employees. The theme of the panel could have been the oft repeated phrase attitude is everything.

June Munroe of Fennemore Law, a California firm that specializes in employment law and PACA litigation, took the audience through a quiz designed to give them a better understanding of state and federal rules and regulations that impact their businesses. Among the information she gave was that in California employers are not required by law to offer paid vacation nor paid holidays, though it is common practice. On the federal side she went over the rights and regulations of PACA, and advised those in attendance that they need to be well-informed on this law that basically sets up the ground rules for produce transactions and disputes.
 

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