Food behind bars: The charity hoping to transform prison food

The charity hosted a cooking competition, with the winner’s meal now on the menu at Nanban

Updated on • Written By Caroline Hendry

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Food behind bars: The charity hoping to transform prison food

A unique charity which hopes to transform the food served in prisons across the UK has hosted its first ever cooking competition, with the winning prisoner’s dish now available to order at Nanban.


Food Behind Bars was first established by Lucy Vincent in 2016 and became a registered charity earlier this year. In June, the charity launched its first ever cooking competition at HMP Brixton, pitting inmates against each other to be crowned the prison’s best chef. The competition couldn’t have come at a better time either - prisons are currently operating on a restricted regime due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which means some prisoners are spending up to 23 hours a day in their cells without access to work or education.

J's winning curry dish

The competition encouraged participants to design an original recipe that meant something to them, with Food Behind Bars assembling an impressive panel of judges including Asma Khan from Darjeeling Express, Tim Anderson from Nanban and Chris Galvin of Galvin Restaurants.

The overall winner was J, who put together a traditional Bangladeshi chicken curry complete with cheesy tandoori flatbreads. J’s dish was inspired by his mother’s cooking and speaking about the dish he said: “a few months into my sentence, I realised how badly I missed my mother’s Bangladesh-infused curries. The curries you have in jail don’t compare to the traditional ways of a curry made with love. So the dish I have prepared... is filled with and infused with a lot of passion, traditional methods and spices.”

Food Behind Bars founder Lucy Vincent

Speaking about the competition, charity founder Lucy Vincent said: “I am so excited to have come to the end of our recipe competition at HMP Brixton and be able to share these three incredible recipes with the rest of the world. I’ve worked closely with Brixton prison for the last year and have been blown away by the amount of hidden cooking talent that’s hiding within the prison walls… I’m looking forward to rolling out the initiative across prisons up and down the country.”

J’s winning dish is available to order from the menu at Nanban Brixton now, with £1 from every dish sold going to Food Behind Bars.

Can’t get enough of good curries? Check out our guide to the best Indian restaurants in London.

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