The Clink’s Alberto Crisci on making the Basque Culinary World Prize top 20

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th May 2016

He hadn’t even heard of the Basque Culinary World Prize before he was nominated but now Alberto Crisci joins an elite list of 20 chefs who have been recognised for their projects which have improved society through gastronomy. He also is now within grasp of the 100,000 prize which the winner will receive to use to further improve their current project.

Alberto Crisci
Alberto Crisci

“I’m a bit overawed and obviously very honoured,” said Alberto when we caught up with him on the phone. “I must be honest, I didn’t know about it. But when I heard I may have been nominated I quickly googled it! So I know a little bit now.

“I’ve won awards in the past, but nothing on this scale. The fact that it is a world prize is another step up all together.”

It’s an honour for any chef to be nominated and Alberto has no doubt that to win it will be an ‘amazing experience’.

>>> See who else made the list of finalists here

 

He said: “The prize isn’t just a big shiny trophy, its money to the charity of your choice so it will continue hopefully to help people through food. If I was to win it, it would help continue the work we ae doing now within The Clink Charity and more offenders, ex-offenders and homeless people will get the benefit.”

The Clink Charity was formed in 2010 to enable the concept of The Clink Restaurant at HMP High Down to be rolled out across the country. Founder Alberto had started the initial restaurant a year earlier as an experiment to create a more life-like training environment for the prison chefs by opening a restaurant to the public.

“When I set The Clink up, I was the catering manager at High Down prison”, explained Alberto. “I was trying to help people get a second chance in life through training in the prison kitchen but I wanted to take it to another level.

“What The Clink does is allows us to train people to a very high level and not only that we are using as much seasonal and local food as we can so it’s sustainable. It also gave us the chance to have employers come in and meet the prisoners. It’s a tool to train them but it’s a great way to introduce them to the public and the outside world, people who are alien to prisons.

“We get them in so they can see these prisoners needed help, we want them to join society and be successful and act like everyone else and not reoffend.”

>>> Read: A visit to The Clink

 

Since the first Clink opened The Clink Charity has opened four more, including growing projects where they are taught to grow the food they then cook in the restaurant. And an events project where they take ex-offenders and homeless people into the community to work at events, in a real working environment and they get an income as well.

Seasonal-crops-at-The-Clink-Gardens
Seasonal crops at The Clink Gardens

“In a nutshell,” said Alberto. “ It changes their lives but also I think it’s an original concept and we haven’t sat back on our laurels. The point is to help as many people around the country as possible and change the public perception as well.

“I feel like we are helping society as a whole as less people are going to prison due to their training and mentoring. In some cases you have to almost become the father figure that wasn’t there.”

Alberto is the only UK based chef who has made the final twenty, something he did not realise until we told him!  

 He said: “I definitely want to win it now I know that! I’m immensely proud, how many people get to represent the UK in anything? I didn’t know I was the only one from the UK that puts another slant on it and more pressure!

“Hopefully I’ll win it for the UK and so that The Clink charity gets more recognition. It will allow us to keep doing what we are doing and maybe effect people from around the world, they may look at what we’ve done and want to replicate it and help people.”

He added: “One thing this award will do is highlight all the good work that goes on around the world. Everybody knows top restaurants and top chefs but not a lot of people think about other roles they can play in helping society, education and transforming the world.

“Once I find out who the other nominees are and what they’ve done, I’ll learn from it – it’ a transfer of ideas around the world and that’s always a good thing.”

The overall winner will be chosen from the top twenty by a Prize Jury when they meet to make their final deliberations at the annual meeting of the International Committee of the Basque Culinary Centre on 11 July this year. The Prize Jury will include the chefs on the International Council of the Basque Culinary Center including Joan Roca (Spain): Gastón Acurio (Peru), Ferran Adrià (Spain), Alex Atala (Brazil), Dan Barber (US), Heston Blumenthal (UK), Massimo Bottura (Italy), Michel Bras (France), Dominique Crenn (France), Yukio Hattori (Japan), Enrique Olvera (Mexico), Yoshihiro Narisawa (Japan) and René Redzepi (Denmark)

The winner will receive €100,000 to devote to an institution or project of their choice that demonstrates the wider role of gastronomy in society.

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 27th May 2016

The Clink’s Alberto Crisci on making the Basque Culinary World Prize top 20