Scottish Daily Mail
VEGAN PORRIDGE ANYONE?
Inmates to serve up meat-free meals for diners ... in their prison
IT is the last place you might expect to go for a meal.
But inmates at a maximum security prison want to open a vegan restaurant serving the public.
The plan involves turning a disused social club at Perth Prison into a cafe and bistro called The Yew Tree.
The project, the first of its kind in Scotland, is being led by a local social business, Starting Step.
The Yew Tree – named after a historic tree in the grounds of HMP Castle Huntly, near Dundee – would be open to the public as a cafe initially, with plans to offer a ‘fine dining’ restaurant experience in the evenings.
The idea is to train inmates and people with convictions to give them a second chance. It will also offer help to people with drug and alcohol-related mental health issues, as well as providing jobs for people outwith the criminal justice system.
In a statement to planners, Starting Step says: ‘Trainees will be able to develop their skills and reap the benefits of a real work environment. They will be able to interact with members of the public, where there will be no attached stigmas of their past mistakes. This will bring an added positive outcome of breaking down barriers between community and clients.’
In 2012, chef Gordon Ramsay appeared in a Channel 4 show called Gordon Behind Bars, in which he attempted to pass on culinary skills to prisoners at London’s tough Brixton Prison. The inmates went on to set up Bad Boys’ Bakery, which made cakes and wraps that went on to be sold in 11 branches of Caffè Nero in London.
Starting Step chief executive Dodie Piddock said: ‘I had always wondered why Scotland has such an appalling number of people in prison. We’re one of the worst in Europe per capita. I did a lot of work on focus groups and I found that the vast majority of people in prison need a second chance. I came away from this thinking, “How do we do this?”.’
Miss Piddock said the Scottish Prison Service ‘probably thought I was bonkers’ when she discussed the plan with officials.
The menu will be completely plant-based, using locally grown produce.
Miss Piddock said: ‘There is a growing need for chefs that are able to produce high-quality vegan food.’
She added: ‘What is important about this project is the end result. I don’t want this to be just another training programme, I want to do something more than give hope.’
The Grade A-listed building is still owned by the prison service, which is closely monitoring Starting Step’s project.
A planning application to transform the building has been submitted to Perth and Kinross Council.
Miss Piddock said: ‘It will be beautiful. And hopefully it will be something Perth can be proud of.’