U.S. history is filled with influential African Americans. Discover four pioneers who changed their communities – and our country. Plus, see how five modern innovators combine strong cultural ties and Verizon technology to empower today’s society. Hear their stories below.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, or the color of your skin; until you take your last breath, it’s never too late.”
Verizon honors innovator Jeff Henderson, the first African American named “Chef de Cuisine” at the famed Caesars and first African American chef at the renown Bellagio in Las Vegas.
Jeff is an award-winning chef, best-selling author, Food Network host, and popular public speaker —having served nearly a decade in prison and turning his life around, working his way to become one of the most influential African-American chefs in the country.
In 2000, Henderson made history in Las Vegas when he became the first African-American named Chef de Cuisine at Caesars Palace. Promotion to Executive Chef positions followed, and he has continued holding that position at several top restaurants, including taking the helm at the Café Bellagio in 2003.
Chef Jeff’s remarkable story of finding his passion for cooking while incarcerated and turning his life around was captured in his New York Times Bestseller COOKED (published by William Morrow, February 2007). His incredible story is currently being turned into a major motion picture.
His first television show, The Chef Jeff Project, aired on The Food Network in fall 2008 to widespread acclaim. As an incredibly compelling personality, Chef Jeff has received widespread national attention including appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, The Today Show, The Montel Williams Show, CNBC, NPR’s “All Things Considered,” People and USA Today. He was named “Person of the Week” by ABC’s World News in November 2008.
For his perseverance in the culinary world and ongoing efforts in the community, Verizon proudly honors innovator Jeff Henderson.
“I think the key to being an innovator in my industry is always doing more. Doing better. Doing different.”
B. (Barbara) Smith is an iconic restaurateur, author and pioneering transcultural lifestyle expert who merges cultures through a shared appreciation for healthy living and style.
Beginning her career as a model and spokesperson, B. Smith has been heralded by The New York Times as “a Renaissance woman,” and by The New York Daily News as “one of the most important African-American style mavens of all time,” and was honored with a 2012 Silver Spoon Award for sterling performance in Food Arts.
A broadcast television and radio talent winning multiple awards across a wide range of fields, B. Smith was inducted into the American Chef Corps, part of the U.S. Department of State’s newly-formed Diplomatic Culinary Partnership with the James Beard Foundation.
B. is at the forefront of a transcultural movement across all of her brand extensions. Her flair for décor, demonstrated in the ambiance of her restaurants, led to the development of the B. Smith with Style Home Collection, which debuted at Bed Bath & Beyond in 2001.
A tireless advocate for healthy lifestyle choices, B. has addressed the Congressional Black Caucus and serves along with her husband as national spokespeople for the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), and was part of a White House Minority Health Townhall panel with Cecilia Munoz, Director of Domestic Policy Council, The White House; Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; and Dr. Regina Benjamin, Surgeon General, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
For her ability to break ground to become the first African-American woman to design a home collection for a national retailer, and for her pioneering efforts with nationally-based community initiatives, Verizon honors B. Smith.