ELIZABETHTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) — Crammed in a kitchen corner, the Hardin County Jail serves up opportunity in the form of a new seven-week culinary course for inmates who don’t have many options on their plate after their release.
“It’s been a very enjoyable time,” said John Pruitt, an inmate at the Hardin County jail. “Especially for me, because I couldn’t cook anything.”
One inmate, Darrell Brown, stayed five extra days in jail just to finish the class.
“I could take a choice at the short route, the easy route out, and get out a couple days early, but where does that really put me in life?” Brown said. “I’ve got kids and people who depend and rely on me to stay out, and this gives me a foundation.”
The jail’s food service vendor, Kellwell Food Management, sponsored the class. It’s a pilot program that the jail hopes to continue and expand if it can find the funding. Soups, stalks and sauces, meats, poultry and pork preparation were all a part of the curriculum. Thursday’s class marked graduation for the initial four student participants. They all graduate with a serve safe certificate.
“If they go in for an interview … and they present their certificate, they’re already two steps ahead of others coming into that job,” Culinary Instructor Mike Salay said.
It’s not your typical jail food. The inmates prepare “five-star meals,” according to jail director Danny Allen. The menu for Thursday’s final included chicken marsala and a risotto. They cook in a crammed corner preparing small portions for class purposes not for all 700 inmates in the jail.
The training obviously includes cooking utensils, which on the surface may not cause alarm until one considers the fact that convicts are being handed sharp knives. For Allen, it’s the ultimate trust drill.
“We check those knife sets every night to make sure everything has been turned back in, and that was part of the interview process: to see what they’re charged with,” Allen said. “So it’s worked out well for us.”
Allen said only non-violent, low-level offenders were allowed to participate. Brown said he’d been in jail six months for not paying child support, but the training he received behind bars is a recipe for success for his family’s future.
“Something to better myself so I don’t keep slipping back into the places I’ve been,” Brown said.
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