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JAILHOUSE WOK Inside Cork Prison’s first ever pop-up restaurant as inmates cook up storm in kitchen

In a first for the Irish Prison Service, CORK Prison hosted a pop-up restaurant for 50 guests.

Six inmates in their 20s worked at the Open Door restaurant.

The prisoners completed an intensive eight-week cooking course with chef and Munster Technological Union lecturer JJ Healy.

The Practical Culinary Skills program, which offers certification, may eventually help alleviate the chronic shortage of chefs in hotels and restaurants across the country.


JAILHOUSE WOK Inside Cork Prison’s


Their guests on Rathmore Road would enjoy four starters, two main courses, and a Cork Mess pavlova dessert, cooked by inmates Paolo and Paddy.

Paddy said it made him feel better than his time in prison wasn’t wasted.

He said, “Even though we’re in jail, we must do something.” We’re not just wondering what we did. Nothing.’


JAILHOUSE WOK Inside Cork Prison’s


“We qualified. We have experience.”

Paddy said his mentor JJ Healy showed him a world of opportunities.

“Talking to JJ is enlightening,” he added. He’s amazing. Listen. I’m excited to cook.

Paddy stated that he wishes to please his family and girlfriend.

Many people think prison is hard, but once you’re there, you realize it’s harder on your family. Everyone who loves you must do a sentence, not just you. All your supporters.

“When you do things to get yourself into jail, you are only thinking of yourself. Consider others.

“My mom’s proud. And my girlfriend is proud of me that I will actually gain something from it. Because jail isn’t for anyone.”

Paolo, who had less cooking experience than Paddy, was happy to learn new skills.

“I learned a lot,” he said. Cutting and making skills. This evening excites me greatly. Nervous. I want to do higher education in hospitality and become a head chef.”


JAILHOUSE WOK Inside Cork Prison’s



Paolo’s focus is on his family because he knows the pain his incarceration has caused them.

“I don’t want to put my family through what they’ve been through,” he said. They’re worried and stressed out. They’re happy with me because of MTU.”

The Pop-up restaurant is a collaboration between MTU’s Tourism & Hospitality Department, IASIO, and CETB.

JJ Healy, who taught the culinary course, said second chances are important.

“Everyone deserves another chance,” he said. You enter. Do your part. Twenty years ago, a friend who trained with me was a chef in Washington DC. He introduced me to his head chef, who had trained through the prison system.


“That wasn’t strange 20 years ago.

“We need to. We need new workers.

With the pandemic, people can come out of prison and get better wages, hours, and working conditions.

Mr. Healy said the six participants would be certified for completing a fully endorsed university module. He’s happy with the training’s response.

“There’s some trepidation (when teaching in prison) at first,” he said. That lasted a week.

“I see no difference from university teaching. Boys are interested. You must have interest and reliability. They’ll follow.

“They will meet with potential employers tonight. Due to their imminent release, two or three will get jobs tonight.

Chefs give people chances. We could all be in here but for God’s grace. A slip or action. Everyone deserves a chance.