CONCORD, Mass. — What kind of meal can you buy for three dollars and change these days?
The answer is a multi-course gourmet feast -- if you’re willing to venture into a prison for it.
The Fife and Drum Restaurant is inside the Northeast Correctional Center in Concord.
It’s the only restaurant in the country that operates within a prison.
Inside the tight kitchen, cooks get ready for the lunch rush.
On the day Boston 25 News was there, they were busy preparing chicken, apple tarts and host of other dishes.
Randy Wiken and Peter Morely stopped by from work.
Randy Wiken said the food is very good and that the quantities are generous.
“It was quite interesting," Peter Morely added. "I didn’t expect to come to prison for food.”
The food is prepared and served by inmates at the minimum-security facility.
Getting to work at the restaurant is considered to be a perk for the inmates.
“You’ve got to be a good inmate," culinary instructor Eddie Jacobs said. "You’ve got to want to work hard."
Jacobs has seen former inmates turn their experiences in the facility’s small kitchen into a new world of possibilities.
“I had a guy on the Food Network. I’ve had guys work the Ryder Cup," Jacobs said. "I’ve had guys open their own restaurants. A pretty good record.”
It’s a record that gives inmates like Larry hope. He’s serving time for a drug charge.
Although he spent hours preparing chicken with a spinach-mushroom duxelle in a puff pastry, he couldn’t be happier about it.
“Oh, it’s given me a lot of confidence," he said. I feel like I can go out there and I have more to offer society.”
Larry said he also believes the program will reduce his chances of recidivism.
This isn’t just about acquiring a specific skill, although the inmates do earn a restaurant industry work certificate.
It’s also about learning how to work responsibly and how to work well with others.
“We learn to cope with one another," Isaac, another 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.”
There are accommodations for a prison setting, like chaining the knives to the counters.
But other than that, the Fife and Drum functions like any other restaurant, except for one big difference -- $3.19 is the cost for the entire meal.
“You get an entrée. You get a dessert, coffee, soda, and salad. Where are you going to find that out there? Nowhere,” Isaac said.
The prison also grows its own vegetables.
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