At Les Baumettes in Marseille, a bistronimic restaurant is opening its doors!

An innovative project

It’s hard to imagine that behind the walls of this Marseille prison hides a bistronomic restaurant, with a warm atmosphere and neat and intimate decoration. On the occasion of the official inauguration of this restaurant, 13 prisoners unveiled their first plates to the general public.

Less than a week after its opening, the restaurant is already full. Open only for lunch, this restaurant located one floor above the cells accommodates about forty people for a non-alcoholic meal. Two formulas are available: starter-main course-dessert at 35 euros, starter-main course or main course-dessert at 28 euros.

This restaurant is inspired by other restaurants of its kind, such as “The Clink” in London’s Brixton prison or that of Bollate prison in Milan.

The goal of this project ? Preparing detainees for their release.

This initiative, supported by the prison administration and the Festin association, is part of a process of professional reintegration. “Cooking requires organization, rigor, important things to remobilize people who are far from employment”, assures Armand Hurault, director of the Festin association.

The 13 volunteer prisoners, all at the end of their sentence (between six months and two years) and hired for a minimum period of four months, hope to find a job on release, thanks to the various skills acquired. For Jeffrey Sandiford, inmate and former cook, this is a real first step towards reintegration: “I did not want to lose this work habit. It will prove that in prison, some inmates can get out. For their next outing, they are oriented in the world of work”.

But this experience is also an opportunity to encourage vocations in a sector of activity in tension. A successful bet for Kamel, 21, who is taking his first steps in the dining room as a server. For him, the “Beaux Mets” give him hope for the future: “Going out to do bullshit again, no, to consider being a waiter or working in the restaurant business, yes! “.

These prisoners thus have the opportunity to forget the time of a service their prison daily life and to better prepare their future. But for the Festin association, another objective is put forward: that of improving the image of the prison environment, often accompanied by stubborn clichés.

On the kitchen side, the results are more than positive

Despite the lack of experience, all of the detainees are willing and motivated. The prisoners themselves prepare all the bistronomic dishes offered on the menu, always under the watchful eye of a supervisor, who, among other things, counts the knives, and this several times during the service, to prevent the prisoners from take them back to the cell.

At the helm of this brigade, chef Sandrine Sollier, who notably worked for the three-star restaurant Petit Nice, in Marseille. Every day, she shares her passion for French gastronomy with the prisoners. “It’s a point of pride for me,” she says, because “even if there are some who will never end up being neither a cook nor a waiter, at least they spend a day that is perhaps more convivial than making walks”.

Some constraints for customers

For customers, there are still some constraints to respect. Customers must book on the restaurant’s website three days in advance, the time to check the identities and criminal records of the guests. On arrival, each customer must go through a security gate and leave their mobile phone, cash and keys in a locker.

If you are tempted by the experience, come and discover on beautiful velvet benches the different dishes offered by the brigade. On the menu of this bistronomic, local and seasonal cuisine: sea bream tartare, vegetable monochrome, lamb crumble and stunning apple, enough to satisfy the most gourmet among us!


Leave a Comment