Prison learners cook up a storm in MasterChef competitions

Weston College has held a series of MasterChef-style competitions in prisons across the south west.

Prison learners were taught a range of catering skills before putting them to the test and cooking a meal of their own. Prison governors then chose the winner after sampling the dishes.

The day-long courses were designed to inspire learners and encourage them to consider a career in catering when they are released.

The initiative was hailed a huge success by Weston College Training and Development Manager Brian Howe, who taught the courses with colleague Pedro Aparicio.

Brian said: “First, all the learners took part in a demonstration, which involved showing them how to cut poultry.

“They then produced a range of fantastic dishes using the skills they had learned – including Oriental, Asian and Caribbean-style chicken. Some even cooked their own naan and pitta bread from scratch. The standard was amazing.

“It was so rewarding to see the passion and skill on display – they took in absolutely everything they were shown.

“The idea was to show what a career in catering and hospitality could offer. I lost count how many said that’s what they wanted to do when they are released.”

The classes were organised by the Weston College chef apprenticeship team known as The School of Food – a new chef apprenticeship jointly delivered by Weston College.

The School of Food is a unique training course, run by chefs for chefs and designed to tackle the local skills shortage. It was the idea of renowned local chefs, Josh Eggleton and Adrian Kirikmaa, who teamed up with Weston College, the St Monica Trust, St Katherine’s School and Ashton Gate Stadium, providing an exciting new apprenticeship programme that launched in April 2018, training aspiring chefs. Among the School of Food’s latest intake is a learner recently released from HMP Leyhill, who was inspired by the prison MasterChef class.

Weston College provides education services to ten prisons across the South West of England – Leyhill, Eastwood Park, Bristol, Erlestoke, Guys Marsh, The Verne, Portland, Exeter, Channings Wood and Dartmoor.

The Weston College Offender Learning team delivers a wide range of training provision in South West prisons, including catering, English, maths, customer service, art, plastering, carpentry, plastering and bricklaying. Curriculums are designed to engage offenders in learning and help them gain the skills and qualifications required to find sustainable employment when they are released. Weston College is proud to work in partnership with and supporting the Ministry of Justice and Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service to rehabilitate offenders and reduce re-offending.