Tue, Aug 20, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Thyme and punishment

In New Zealand, prisoners go gourmet

By Neil SANDS  /  AFP, WELLINGTON

“Wolf” took charge of the vegetarian option, creating a meat-free Wellington roulade accompanied by French puy lentils and goat’s cheese mousse.

“Every time I failed, I learned something,” he said. “Once I realized you can’t chuck all the stuff in a pot and just go for it, you actually have to study it, I found it fascinating.”

Bullet-headed and with a frame almost as wide as it is tall, Wolf admits that contact with non-inmates has been the most challenging aspect of the program, saying that like many prisoners he is intensely shy and being inside “stuffs up your social skills.”

He describes working on the banquet as nothing short of life changing, saying cooking has given him a goal to work toward.

“I’ve been here a long time and most officers would agree that when I came I was a troubled inmate. Since I’ve been involved in this it’s changed my whole focus (going) forward. I’ve now got a passion for this. It’s something I want to do and nothing else matters now,” he said.

“You sort of muddle yourself through the years and you’ve got no focus because every day is the same. It’s really good when you finally zoom in on something and go ‘bang, that’s what I want to do when I get out,’” he added

Wolf and the other prisoners were nervous about the reception their food would receive when AFP spoke to them just before the banquet on August 9 and 10.

They need not have worried. It received rave reviews, including one from the Dominion Post restaurant critic David Burton, who cited the opinion of one happy diner in his write-up: “If the food is always like this, I’d consider doing time.”

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