A TASTE OF PRISON FOOD
SIX REINFORCED STEEL DOORS STAND between the outside world and the Clink, a restaurant located inside Her Majesty’s High Down Prison, Surrey. Diners are stripped of their mobile phones and tobacco products, and whisked through an airless waiting room filled with swaggering “screws,” who clank keys and slam doors. Inside lies a slick restaurant with chromotherapy mood lighting, polished
black granite surfaces, and gray wool upholstered chairs that wouldn’t be out of place in a West End eatery. Only the plastic cutlery gives the game away--as well as the fact that all of the chefs face special restrictions on the usage of the knives. It looks like a West End eatery, but the plastic cutlery suggests otherwise.
The Clink is the brainchild of prison officer Kathleen Ruby and professional chef Alberto Crisci, who coaches offenders on how to make adventurous dishes like avocado sorbet. Their hope is that the culinary skills prisoners learn in the sparkling-clean open kitchen might help them get jobs on release. The restaurant, which serves surprisingly tasty dishes-- like steak onglet with béarnaise sauce, slow-cooked pork belly, cheese soufflé omelette, and organic salad grown from the prisoners’ own gardenresembles something between Hell’s Kitchen and Prison Break. A charming French waiter (serving a 14-year sentence for drug offenses) completes the haute cuisine mirage. And a good-looking Spanish prisoner makes a mean espresso on the huge Gaggia machine, before sending guests back into the concrete courtyard surrounded by barbed wire and sevenmeter fences-definitely putting the kibosh on anyone planning to dine and dash (www.theclinkonline. com). S.G.
(A Taste of Prison Food. In: Newsweek, September 2009, p.48)
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