Fred Sirieix is usually found managing Galvin at Windows restaurant in London or fronting the popular TV show First Dates. Last month he kicked off his latest project The Right Course, aiming to upskill young offenders in category C prisons.
“The Right Course is about going straight into the heart of prisons and teaching people skills of the hospitality industry, whether it is in the kitchen or front of house,” explains Sirieix. “But it is also about teaching the values that are necessary to be successful in the hospitality industry.”
Sirieix was instrumental in setting up the restaurant’s charity Galvin Chance, which gives young people an opportunity to train and work in the hospitality industry, 10 years ago. For The Right Course he is going further – the ultimate ambition is to work with all 90 prisons across the UK.
There are two parts to the project. “We’ll be staging pop-ups in prisons on a national level. The idea is to find hospitality professionals in each location who can lead each project and liaise with the prison governor,” he says. “But more importantly I want to turn the staff restaurant inside the prisons into a fully functioning restaurant, run like a high street chain by the offenders.
The idea is to turn Isis prison in Thamesmead, London into the pilot and ultimately roll it out nationwide.
The first pop-up event was a declared success and “I know that people are in prison because they have committed a crime, but there really is a sense of claustrophobia – you can’t get out,” he says.
On a practical level, it is a project that makes a lot of sense for an industry faced with skills shortage. “We can upskill and train people while they are in prison and when people come out they have been trained and they have practised – they’ll have no choice while they are in prison,” says Sirieix. “When they come out they will have a skill, a certificate and they will be ready for employment.”
Sirieix has drawn on support, goodwill and time from a large network of hospitality professionals. For the first pop-up Chris Galvin took part as guest chef, the next one will see José Pizarro joining. “We are very lucky because we are surrounded by people who have the experience and who have good reach. It is about being strategic and knowing where to knock,” he explains and adds he is now turning his attention to brands who could get involved by donating equipment or having members of staff support the project.
Asked why he decided to spend time on starting The Right Course his answer is simple: because he can. “The world is the way we make it. I have been very fortunate in my life and I have a confidence that I have carried with me in my life. When people are in an environment of crime and drugs they don’t see possibilities and opportunities – I see them everywhere,” he says.
He cites re-offending rates of 50% of those leaving prison. There are two reasons for this – one is where you live and the other is if you have work. “So if you have a job straight away, the re-offending risk is instantly lower.”
The next Right Course pop up dinner is planned for March or April.