The dishes that were being brought in looked yummy, but I did not get a chance to taste them. These scrumptious dishes were prepared in a prison kitchen ..... by inmates.
They were the 12 finalists from both the mens' and womens' prisons taking part in the Yellow Ribbon Cooking Competition 2009 held in Changi Prison Cluster A on 26th May. The competition was a challenge to these participants because each team was given a set of predetermined ingredients and basic kitchen equipment to work with.
Under the watchful eyes of prison officers present in the kitchen, the participants went about their tasks. Knives and even vegetable peelers were chained to a kitchen bench. One team had to improvise a heart-shaped mould from aluminium foil. They had to produce the dishes within a time limit.
The dishes presented not only earned the praises of the judges but captured the hearts of the invited guests and prison officers. I was amazed when I was told some of the participants had little cooking experience and only went through 3 cooking lessons with SHATEC Institute's trainers. And the women particpants had no kitchen in their prison to practise for this competition.
The dishes were judged by 4 chefs - Tony Khoo (Executive Chef, Marina Mandarin), Paolo Zambrano (Executive Sous Chef, SATS Catering), Matthew Yim (Vice Principal, SHATEC Institute) and Catan Tan (SHATEC Institute).
The champion team is from Khalsa Crescent Prison. Besides cash, the winners will be given an opportunity to cook their winning dishes for their families. I hope to be invited for this special occasion. There would be touching moments.
Chef Tony Khoo was surprised at the particpants' high level of creativity despite the constraints of the prison kitchen. He was impressed with the enthusiasm and good working attitude of the participants. He would be more willing to hire ex-offenders if they display such qualities.
Vice Principal of SHATEC Institute, Chef Matthew Yim was certainly proud of these participants. They show a willingness to learn and take in criticisms. It was a satisfying and rewarding experience for his school to support such a meaningful project.
I was invited to this event by Singapore Prison Service.
For security reasons, my personal particulars was submitted prior to attending the event. I was allowed to carry only a notebook and a pen, all my belongings were left in a locker at the Prison Link Centre.
I went through barricade after barricade, security was so tight within the prison compound. It was not easy for EastCoastLife to go to jail. :P Surprisingly, I was getting more excited as each auto gate closed behind me. :D
I was warmly welcomed by Matthew Wee (Head, Public Affairs), the officers of SPS and SCORE (Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprise).
Lunch was catered from SCORE's Catering & Central Kitchen. The dishes are cooked by inmates. I would recommend its really yummy Brownie and mini custard puff!
******************** ooo OOO 000 ********************
More than 11,000 ex-offenders complete their sentences and are released from our prisons and drug rehabilitation centres (DRCs) annually. The Yellow Ribbon Project helps the reformed inmates put their past behind them, especially when they try their level best at home, at work and in the community.
Support the Yellow Ribbon Project.
Photos - courtesy of Singapore Prison Service
First Commenter - Ayie