Wagamama chefs spend time behind bars to teach inmates in Doncaster prison how to cook

Top chefs from restaurant chain wagamama visited a Doncaster prison to serve up cooking classes to inmates.
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In partnership with the Ministry of Justice, wagamama trained 15 prisoners at HMP Hatfield to cook some of the restaurant chain’s classic dishes to bring to life the experience of working in the firm’s kitchens. The wagamama team was headed by Global Executive Chef Steve Manglesot and supported by Jamie Henderson, Jaymi Lincoln and Sean Lockwood to feed hundreds of inmates food prepared by their peers.

The wagamama chefs worked with 15 inmates who are interested in a job in hospitality upon their release and were allowed to take over the prison kitchen for the day. Together they created 250 portions of wagamama dishes including chicken katsu curry, yasai katsu and bang bang cauliflower.

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All the dishes were made completely from scratch with fresh produce enabling the prisoners to learn new skills and experience the wagamama working ways, getting a true flavour for what working in a wagamama kitchen is like.

Chefs from Wagamama visted HMP Hatfield to teach 15 budding chefs kitchen skills.Chefs from Wagamama visted HMP Hatfield to teach 15 budding chefs kitchen skills.
Chefs from Wagamama visted HMP Hatfield to teach 15 budding chefs kitchen skills.

A wagamama spokesperson said: “This year wagamama has visited multiple prisons across the UK where we talked to men and women who are 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.

“The session at HMP Hatfield was an open invitation to all men in the prison and proved highly successful and a blueprint for further work in this space. We believe that everyone deserves a chance but we also strongly believe in second chances.

“We all need to remove the blindfolds of judgement and give everyone an equal opportunity to meaningful work, and always remember, your past should never define your future.”

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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.”

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 a wider initiative by the Ministry of Justice and New Futures Network called ‘Unlocking Hospitality’ a two-week event to drive up the numbers of inmates joining hospitality schemes – an industry which is struggling to recruit the people it needs.

As part of the visit, wagamama will formally team up with the MoJ and Prison Service to offer roles to prisoners out on licence, giving them the chance to gain key skills in the hospitality industry before leaving prison. The scheme will be piloted with HMP Hatfield and will roll out in the second quarter of 2023.

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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 MOJ survey showed that nine out of 10 businesses that hire ex-offenders agree that they are motivated, good attenders and trustworthy.

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