Gastronomy in Prisons Project
In early 2010, Dr. Jayme Garcia dos Santos Júnior, the consultant judge of the São Paulo Judicial Administrative Department, asked chef Alex Atala to elaborate a cooking training inside the prisons. Alex Atala invited David Hertz, founder of Gastromotiva to develop this joint project.
The pilot project was put in action at Adriano Marrey male prison, in the city of Guarulhos in São Paulo in March 2011. During 2012 and 2013, Judge Jayme, David Hertz and Alex Atala worked to arrange resources to maintain the project, with the addition of new activities and making it an integral part of the government policy for prisons.
In December 2013, deputy Fernando Capez, through a parliamentary amendment, managed to collect resources for training and qualification of the project´s first class at the São Paulo Female Penitentiary. The instructors were former Gastromotiva students as well as chefs and cooks from D.O.M. and Dalva e Dito restaurants, both owned by chef Alex Atala.
Between July and August 2014, a second class graduated, composed of 32 female inmates and three employees from the São Paulo Female Penitentiary. At the graduation, the then Governor of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin, the São Paulo State Higher Court of Justice, Appeals Court Judge José Renato Nalini, State Deputy Fernando Capez and other authorities were present. At the time, the Governor announced his intention of turning the project into a permanent program and a model of government policy.
In the period of December 2013 to August 2014, 60 women and three employees at the penitentiary concluded training. Eight of these women, who either completed their time or were on probation, continued their qualification through the Gastromotiva Vocational Kitchen Training. The three of them are already working in the Gastromotiva restaurant network.
During that same period, a “Gastronomic Area” was opened in the Penitentiary´s library as well as a “Mini Herbs and Spices Garden”.
Gastromotiva is aspiring to reach an agreement with the Penitentiary Administrative Office for the possibility of new classes in the near future.
"This project is, for all of us, a breaking of paradigms on how we see a chaotic penitentiary system which is in need of a new structure. We are only part of this process.”
“We´re not talking about teaching how to cook. We´re talking about giving back a horizon. Food, this element which unites us, is very powerful. It doesn´t only feed our bodies, it feeds the soul and gives us hope.”
“With the expertise of Gastromotiva, this program will be decisive in the reintegration of these women in society since it not only gives them the possibility of a good professional qualification, but most importantly, the empowerment of personal values and citizenship, opening up a real perspective of social reorganization of their lives through a licit and legitimate job."