In the kitchen
Almost a decade after The Clink launched its first restaurant inside Surrey’s HMP High Down, the charity has opened a production kitchen next door. paid a visit
If you’ve ever been involved in planning a large party, wedding or corporate event then you’ll be familiar with the ‘menu tasting’ stage of the process. The experience is no different when booking catering through Clink Events – the catering arm of The Clink Charity – except the tasting room is situated behind barbed wire-capped, concrete walls and you’ll need to go through a few vigorous security checks before you can sample the goods.
In partnership with Her Majesty’s Prison & Probation Service, The Clink has converted a building at HMP Downview women’s prison, in Sutton, into a central production kitchen for its external events catering service.
The state-of-the-art kitchen, which cost more than £640,000 and includes an adjoining tasting room with space to host private dining for up to 15 people, is now used to train female prisoners for their Level 2 City and Guilds NVQS in Food Safety, Food Preparation and Food and Beverage Service. The training is overseen by general manager, Jonny Whitfield, and head chef, Christa Janse Van Rensburg, and follows the charity’s five step rehabilitation programme; recruit, train, support, employ and mentor.
“We train up to 24 prisoners at a time in the new central production kitchen,” explains charity chief executive Christopher Moore. “To date the food preparation for external events has been done through the restaurant kitchens [within the neighbouring men’s prison, HMP High Down]. However, due to the success of the events, we now need to increase capacity.”
Launched in 2014, Clink Events offers catering services for public cocktail parties, receptions, buffets, dinners and even weddings. In January this year it was appointed as one of the preferred caterers at Guildhall, in London, and has catered for a number of high-profile events in the city.
Graduates of The Clink Charity’s rehabilitation programme (which has restaurants in four prisons across the country) serve guests at the events alongside vulnerable young adults put forward by homeless charity Centrepoint. Indeed, they will be part of the team preparing food and serving guests to the The Clink’s annual charity ball next month (January) at Royal Lancaster, London.
“The Clink production kitchen will offer women the opportunity to learn new skills and in doing so gain industry recognised qualifications,” comments Robin Eldridge, governor of HMP Downview. “The practical work the women will undertake through The Clink, both within the prison and on temporary release, will improve their chances of obtaining paid employment on release and help them make a valuable contribution to their communities.”
To find out more about The Clink Charity or to book tickets to the ball on January 11, 2019 (tickets from £130 per head) visit theclinkcharity.org.