By Angela Green
A team of wagamama chefs recently visited HMP Swansea to deliver cooking classes to inspire inmates to become chefs following their release.
The team, headed by Food Development Chef Jamie Henderson, and the area chef for Wales, Henry Staple fed hundreds of prisoners with food prepared by their peers at local B category HMP Swansea.
The chefs were joined by the 15 inmates who are interested in a job in hospitality upon release and took over the prison kitchen for the day.
Together they created about 450 portions of mouth-watering dishes including chicken katsu curry, yasai katsu, and bang bang cauliflower. All these dishes were made completely from scratch with fresh produce enabling the men to learn new skills and experience wagamama working ways, getting a true flavour for what working in a busy kitchen is like.
A spokesperson for the restaurant group said: “Over the last 12 months, wagamama has visited multiple prisons across the UK where we engage with men and women who are close to release. We talk about wagamama, who we are, what we stand for and the job opportunities we have to offer, alongside our apprenticeship opportunities to build on any kitchen based education they have received from the prison. The session at HMP Swansea was an open invitation to all men in the prison and proved highly successful and a blueprint for further work in this space.”
New Futures Network Chief Executive Duncan O Leary said: “Getting prisoners into work is the best way to cut reoffending and keep the public safe.
“That’s why some of the nation’s best-loved restaurant and pub chains are teaming up with prisons to give prisoners the skills they need to secure a job on release – all while helping hospitality firms train the workforce they need to grow and thrive.”
Over 70,000 people are released from prison each year and it is well evidenced that jobs cut reoffending and steer individuals away from a life of crime.
The visit forms part of the Ministry of Justice’s wider commitment to boost the number of prison leavers gaining jobs once out of the prison gates. A recent survey by the Ministry of Justice, showed that nine out of ten businesses that hire ex-offenders agree that they are motivated, good attenders and trustworthy.
The latest visit follows wagamama’s commitment to running six prison masterclasses each year, in both female and male prisons to support as many people as possible into employment upon release. Last year a team of wagamama chefs visited HMP Hatfield which proved to be a great success.
Since the launch of the scheme wagamama has been able to offer full time employment to 15 individuals, one of whom has taken on an apprenticeship after their first month. All of those hired had faced homelessness and unemployment upon release.