Compton’s World-Famous Trap Kitchen Is Cooking in Portland Right Now

Started by two former L.A. gang members, the soul-food and fried chicken spot is a fave of Snoop Dogg, Kobe Bryant and Kendrick Lamar.

Snoop Dogg and Kobe Bryant's favorite underground fried chicken and soul food kitchen just opened up in Portland—as a food cart.

Trap Kitchen is the dream of  two former former gang members from Compton, one Crip and one Piru (Blood). Malachi "Spankihana" Jenkins and Roberto "News" Smith were both lifelong cooks in part from necessity—Jenkins cooked while his mother was at work—and it eventually led Jenkins to culinary school.

But Trap Kitchen really got started, Jenkins told Vice last year, "when I dropped out of Le Cordon Bleu and got hired to be a personal chef for local pimps while living in Las Vegas. They love rich pastas like shrimp and chicken Alfredo, and dishes like that."

Trap Kitchen's clientele has gone decidedly upmarket since then. The customers for their fried chicken, gumbo and brisket now include Dave Chappelle, Snoop Dogg, Kobe Bryant, Kendrick Lamar, Russell Simmons, Kanye West and a boatload of Kardashians and/or Biebers.  The menu changes according to whim and is posted on Instagram each night—but the pineapple bowls with surf 'n' turf shrimp and steak on a bed of tropical fruit are already the stuff of legend.

But before it got big, the Trap's roots also go back to Portland, says local rapper Cool Nutz, who alongside rapper Mikey Vegaz is helping the duo kick off their brand-new Trap Kitchen PDX food cart at 8523 SE Stark St, open noon to 8 pm.

"We've been friends," says Cool Nutz, "like Spank would be up here—he'd sometimes be up here two three weeks a month. He cooked Thanksgiving dinner, birthday dinners—cooking has always been his passion. He's an all around good dude, and News as well."

Jenkins and Smith will be cooking at the Portland cart when they're in town along with a chef they've hired to keep the place running. Jenkins will be in town cooking from noon to 8 pm Friday, Saturday and Monday of this week.

The cart will be a permanent addition to Portland, however, serving up the Trap's soul and seafood recipes.

Cool Nutz says the location near Gateway was carefully considered to be central to everyone in the community.

"A lot of people have been displaced to southeast," he says. "Nowadays, that places you down in the middle of everybody even being out on 85th—which is crazy. It used to be Northeast or Lloyd. Now it's so spread out, you can be on 82nd it's considered central, because there's so many people coming from, as you say, the Numbers."

Cool Nutz says it's also been surreal watching the duo go from underground cooks to celebrities in their own right—including events in Seattle where 300 people came out to try Trap Kitchen's food, and off-season dinners where they cooked for the Blazers' C.J. McCollum. The pair also just released a cookbook, Trap Kitchen: Bangin' Recipes from Compton, which they'll be selling at the Portland cart as well.

"I was in L.A.," says Cool Nutz, "We went to Snoop's studio and Spank was there cooking for him—you know, coincidentally. It's been a trip watching everything progress because, you know, you think basketball or rapping in therms of being a celebrity. Cooking has brought them to where they are.

To see the day's menu at 8523 SE Stark St., check out the Trap Kitchen PDX Instagram. Yesterday was fried chicken, and today is the Trap Kitchen's signature gumbo.

Jenkins will be in town cooking at the cart through January 9, but the cart's closed on Sunday.

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