Wednesday, 18 July 2012

I’ve been in prison…

I’ve been in Brixton Prison finding out if the skills of an innovator are useful ‘inside’.  Let me explain: Channel 4 call me and ask if I can advise on developing a food product made by prisoners tutored by celeb chef Gordon Ramsay.  One thing lead to another, and the next minute I’m being frisked, X-rayed and marched across the exercise yard to meet a dozen of the inmates.

Myself, the ‘Bad Boys’ and Gordon spend a day together.  Figuring that any product needs to tell a genuine story, my job is to get under the skin of why cooking in prison may have redemptive qualities.

Up front let me tell you that Ramsay is superb at TV.  While I mumbled and self-deprecated, Gordon got angry, slapped his hands, said ”fuck” a lot and enunciated ev-ery-litt-le-syl-a-ble.  Very watchable.

The Bad Boys are bad but they’re sad boys as well.  Repeat offenders, many hooked on heroin.  If it wasn't the craving for a hit that landed them in trouble in the first place, then they often get the taste for it once inside.

But here’s the thing – cooking does have a magical effect on these tough, lost characters.  It took me a few hours to figure out why, but for them, cooking is unique.  It’s delicate.  It requires absolute attention to detail.  It’s a team thing.  And it delivers an immediate reward - you see the pleasure on someone’s face as they consume your delicacy.  These are the four factors that make such a difference - and you don't get them welding or sowing mailbags. (Does that still happen?).

Really it is ‘life changing’ stuff and as always when you have a great insight, the development of the idea (‘Bad Boys’ Bakery – Life Changing Taste’) and elements of the product, packaging and communications all flow.

Good luck to the scheme in Brixton and the Bad Boys.

Bad Boys' Bakery Lemon Slice is available in selected Caffè Nero’s in London and The Ministry of Justice is having very positive discussions with a social enterprise company about the Bad Boys’ Bakery continuing. The packaging was designed by Lu Burnell at ?What If!