A TEAM of top wagamama chefs visited HMP Downview to serve up cooking classes to inspire female chefs of tomorrow.
In partnership with the Ministry of Justice, it was the first time ever a major UK restaurant group worked within a female prison and fed the entire population.
The chefs from wagamama trained 18 prisoners some of the restaurant’s classic dishes to bring to life the experience of working in one of their busy kitchens, by bringing the wagamama experience to the prison kitchen
The wagamama team, headed by Lauren Robbin, wagamama Early Careers Partner and supported by senior wagamama chefs, fed hundreds of inmates and staff food prepared by the women inmates.
On the day the chefs were joined by Sarah McKnight, Head of Director General’s office to witness the highly successful wagamama project with HMP Downview Deputy Governor, Esther Dainton.
Over the last year the Ministry of Justice and wagamama restaurants have formed a special partnership to take chefs into prisons and teach inmates cooking skills and ultimately offer them work so they have a job when they are released, helping to minimise the risk of re-offending.
The project has been extremely successful in the five male prisons they have visited so far, including a number of hires and in one case an apprentice has been promoted to managerial level.
A wagamama spokesperson said:
“Supporting prison leavers into meaningful work has seen us visit a number of prisons across the UK where we have talked to men and women, close to release about wagamama, who we are, what we stand for and the job opportunities we have to offer alongside the apprenticeship opportunities to build on any kitchen-based education they have received from the prison.
“wagamama believes that people deserve a second chance and we commit, through our people promise, ‘all on one bench’ that our teams will always feel part of our no judgement community.
“We were proud to work with HMP Downview’s kitchen and turn it into a wagamama kitchen for the day, enabling the women to see first-hand what it is like to work back of house in one of our restaurants.
“We’re committed to making sure these women see the opportunities available to them, especially having seen the impact first hand from our previous sessions and hope to help more people transition into meaningful work at wagamama, whilst supporting in the wider goal of reducing reoffending.”
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 inmates the skills they need to secure a job on release – all while helping hospitality firms train the workforce they need to grow and thrive.”