A restaurant dishing up three-course meals for less than $5 may seem like the deal of the century – especially when a cup of coffee can set you back $68.
At the Fife and Drum restaurant, patrons are served generous quantities of delicate puffed pastry dishes, apple tart, chicken and seasonal vegetables from the site’s vegetable garden.
“You get an entrée. You get a dessert, coffee, soda, and salad. Where are you going to find that out there? Nowhere,” Isaac, one of the cooks, said to Boston 25 News.
Nowhere except prison, it seems.
The Fife and Drum is operated out of Northeast Correctional Center, a minimum-security facility, in Concord, Massachusetts. Northeast Correctional is the only prison in the country that operates a restaurant – and business seems to be going well.
“I had a guy on the Food Network. I’ve had guys work the Ryder Cup," culinary instructor Eddie Jacobs said of the restaurant. "I’ve had guys open their own restaurants. A pretty good record.”
The food is prepared and served by the inmates. The kitchen is adapted to a prison environment for safety purposes, like chaining the knives to the table.
The menu can be elaborate and take the inmates a long time to prepare. Inmate Larry, who is serving time for a drug charge, spent hours preparing chicken with a spinach-mushroom duxelle in a puff pastry, Boston 25 News reported.
But the cooking time is something he savors.
“Oh, it’s given me a lot of confidence," he said to the news channel. “I feel like I can go out there and I have more to offer society.”
Larry believes the program will reduce his chances of recidivism once he gets out.
The program isn’t available to everyone, though.
“You’ve got to be a good inmate," Jacobs said. "You’ve got to want to work hard."
Those who are selected do earn a restaurant industry work certificate, as well as learn how to work well with others and adapt in new environments.
“We learn to cope with one another," Isaac, cook and also an inmate, said. "We are bumping each other all day, but we get along in that environment, which in other places that you’d be bumping into each other, would cause something else.”