One of the sell-out successes of the annual Visa Wellington on a Plate (VWOAP) has been the Rimutaka Prison Gate to Plate, where a team of prisoner-cooks, trained by local industry chefs, prepare a three-course dinner for guests. The dishes, plus canapes, are served by prisoner-waiters, also trained for the event, and the standard is as high as in any fine-dining restaurant.
Chef Martin Bosley initiated the idea four years ago; it’s part of the Department of Corrections aim to train prisoners so they leave prison with qualifications, and confidence to face their new lives. Some of the prisoner/cooks trained in previous years have since been placed on Release to Work schemes in kitchens outside the prison, and are working really well, says Bosley. He encourages more restaurants and cafes to offer such positions.
“This is something I am passionate about. The more we can spread the word about reducing re-offending through employment the better.”
This year, chefs Chetan Pangam (One80 Restaurant) and Amy Gillies (Salty Pidgin), joined Bosley at the prison.
“We sat down with the men, discussed angles and their interests. Four years ago we made an elementary start. Last year we got into fermentation and curing meats. This year we made our own chorizo; air-dryed, lightly smoked and steamed. We also made a black and yellow tortellini dish, the guys wanted that colour for the Hurricanes. The guys are self-motivated, they work long days on top of their normal kitchen duties,” said Bosley.