|Ealing Restaurant Helping To Serve A Better Future|
Figures show reduced rates of re-offending for those involved in the Switchback scheme
( (photo credit: Switchback)
An Ealing restaurant is supporting a scheme to help ex-offenders get back on their feet.
Soane's Kitchen (next to Pitzhanger Manor) recently hosted a special evening when former prisoners got the opportunity to show off their new catering skills.
From the age of just 14 years old, Simon was dealing drugs – now he’s serving up pan-seared cod, wild nettle pesto, and smashed courgettes.
Simon, who asked for his real name not to be used, can cook up a storm these days because of Switchback, an organisation that supports 18-30 year old prison-leavers in London.
On Thursday night, 30-year-old Simon was one of five ex-offenders working in the kitchen to prepare a three-course meal for diners at a social supper club event at Soane’s Kitchen in Ealing. He left prison in late-March, earning early release from a three-and-a-half-year term for Class A drug possession with intent to supply.
His grounding in cuisine began behind bars, where he helped prepare prison guard’s meals – a crowd you don’t want to disappoint. But if the response from Thursday night’s diners was anything to go by, the guards were probably left satisfied.
Simon said when you’re in prison, all you have to do is think. “I sat there brainstorming and came up with an idea as to what I wanted to do with my future, and it involves cooking, so this just made sense.
“I’ve been with them about two-and-a-half weeks and I’m doing this today, and I’ll be going to another restaurant tomorrow.”
For 11 years, Switchback has been connecting with offenders in prison, and meeting them on their day of release. Catering training will usually last 16 weeks, after which a spokeswoman said the men would be helped into work.
Around half will choose to stay in the hospitality field, with the remainder helped into other pursuits. The programme seems to work, with re-offending rates at 49% in England and Wales, but just 8% in Switchback trainees.
The majority of trainees, 78%, gained permanent work. after completing the course.
From the asparagus and hazelnut butter starter to the whipped buttermilk cheesecake served as dessert, it’s easy to see why.
Ged Cann - Local Democracy Reporter
8 May 2019