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There are few in the hospitality industry who could match Alberto Crisci's achievements. The former chef at Mayfair's glamorous Mirabelle restaurant has devoted the past 12 years to giving inmates at High Down Prison a second chance. He has done this by helping them to learn catering skills in order to gain confidence and ultimately find work in the hospitality industry.
As David Foskett, head of school at the University of West London, explains: "He has developed an innovative and creative approach to training offenders and preparing them for the outside world, equipping them with the skills and confidence to work in the hospitality industry in the hope that they will not reoffend and instead become responsible, upstanding citizens."
In addition to training prisoners to prepare meals on a budget of £1.68 per person in the main prison kitchen, Crisci has also created a West End-style restaurant, the Clink. Here, those prisoners who have shown a desire to learn new skills are given experience of working in a commercial kitchen and restaurant. Besides regular guests, Crisci hopes to showcase their talents to potential employers from the hospitality industry. Skills they acquire include purchasing power, recipe design and the ability to either prepare or serve more than 1,000 meals a day.
Since the Clink was opened in 2009, more than 200 prisoners have gained NVQ levels 1-3 in cooking, cleaning, and front-of-house service and many have been offered hospitality jobs after their discharge. The restaurant, which is now part of the SRA, has hosted events such as the Forgiveness Project's fundraising lunch in October 2010, with guest Giorgio Locatelli, chef-patron of London's Locanda Locatelli.
Looking ahead, the judges felt there was scope to take this initiative - which took seven years to develop - into other prisons. As Cyrus Todiwala, director Cafe Spice Namaste, said: "In my mind, what Al has achieved is clearly destined to inspire the world of prisons and other social initiatives."
All the judges acknowledged Crisci's exceptional resilience, working in a challenging environment. "He has an unusual group of learners and appears to have succeeded where others have given up hope," said David Cochrane, chief executive HIT Scotland. "His determination to get the project off the ground, coupled with the development strategy that could enhance many other industry sectors, made the choice a unanimous one for the judges."
ShortlistedAlberto Crisci, founder/trustee, The Clink Charity
â- David Mulcahy, craft and food development director, Sodexo UK and Ireland
â- Kellie Rixon, managing director, De Vere Academy of Hospitality
The JudgesMichael Coaker, senior chef-lecturer, University of West London
David Cochrane, chief executive, HIT Scotland David Foskett, head of school, University of West London
Philippe Rossiter, chief executive, Institute of Hospitality
Julia Sibley, chief executive, Savoy Educational Trust
Cyrus Todiwala, director, Café Spice Namasté