Manila prisoners draw knives for "Iron Bar Chef"

Tue Jan 10, 2012 6:21am EST
 
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By Michaela Cabrera

MANILA (Reuters) - Convicted murderers and rapists in the Philippines faced off against each other in a prison battle using knives, but also aprons, hats, pots and pans.

Enter "Iron Bar Chef," the latest recreational effort at the largest prison in the Philippines -- part of a broader program

that officials say has vastly helped tame the mood of the jail's restive inmates.

Inspired by reality TV cooking show "Iron Chef," the version at Manila's New Bilibid Prison pitted six teams against each other, tasking them to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert in 60 minutes.

Each three-man team was given a box of ingredients including meat, fish, vegetables and fruits. When the clock started, the inmates began frantically chopping, frying and steaming.

"This is my passion, that's why I was really interested in doing this," said Bienvendio Diaz, who worked as a cook and caterer before receiving a 27-year-sentence for fraud.

The January 7 showdown at the prison, which has 12,000 inmates in maximum security alone, was just the latest venture in a wide-ranging rehabilitation program that aims not only to reform inmates but also to cultivate their skills and prepare them for a possible return to the work force.

"Our ultimate goal is for the inmates to be productive while in prison," said Chief Superintendent Richard Schwarzkopf.   Continued...