Today on All Things Considered Patricia Murphy interviewed the author of Cooked: From the Streets to the Stove, from Cocaine to Foie Gras, Jeff Henderson, who is currently head chef at the Bellagio but got his start in cooking when he was spending nine years in prison for cooking crack. His story was inspiring - in prison he found that he really enjoyed cooking and when he got out he found an African-American chef at a restaurant in Vegas who he looked up to and basically pestered him until he agreed to let him work in his kitchen. Henderson washed dishes and cleaned the bathrooms and came in early and left late, even when he wasn't being paid overtime, just to prove to the chef that he was trustworthy and capable of learning, and eventually ended up as a head chef in his own restaurant. He actually compared the process of blanching vegetables to the process of cooking crack out of cocaine (I never realized it was such a science) and the delicacy you need in cooking foie gras to the issues you'd have if you messed up a batch of cocaine.
However, the most surprising thing to me was the fact that he said he got into food in prison because you're always hungry there - he said by Tuesday you're thinking about what you'll get for dinner on Saturday. It never occurred to me that you wouldn't get enough food while in prison - I assumed the food would be bad, but not unsubstantial. Now that I know, the thought of going to prison is even that much more horrifying. I don't think we should be serving feasts but I think we're doing everyone a disservice by not having prisoners fed healthy, reasonably substantial meals. In the long run you'd think the medical fees we'd save in and of themselves would make this worthwhile.