Smollett was born in New York City, to a family of actors, the son of Janet (née Harris) and Joel Smollett. His Father was Jewish (his family immigrated from Russia and Poland), and his mother is African-American. Smollett began his career as a baby diaper model. His first role in a scripted series was in Hangin' with Mr. Cooper. He then starred alongside his five brothers and sisters in the ABC sitcom, On Our Own. Smollett also starred alongside his sister Jurnee Smollett as Samuel L. Jackson's son in the critically acclaimed feature film Eve's Bayou, directed by Kasi Lemmons. He was in ABC Family's The Middleman. Jake portrayed Noser, a character derived from Javier Grillo-Marxuach's comic book. The entire cast of The Middleman sat on the panel for Comic-Con in July 2009.
In 2016 Smollett joined his five brothers and sisters on Food Network to cook family style meals every Saturday on "Smollett Eats". He has also recently appeared guest judging on Food Network's hit show "Chopped Junior". In 2017 Jake will join Rachael Ray on The Rachael Ray Show all season long for cooking segments.