2-star chef Michel Portos in the kitchen with the inmates of Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, for “generosity and transmission”

2-star chef Michel Portos in the kitchen with the inmates of Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, for “generosity and transmission”

Michel Portos remembers what Pierre Troisgros told him: “Cooking is generosity and transmission.” Midi Libre – JEAN-MICHEL MART

2-star chef Michel Portos in the kitchen with the inmates of Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, for “generosity and transmission”

The chief got to know the detainees that morning, but everything happens as if he had always led this brigade. Midi Libre – JEAN-MICHEL MART

2-star chef Michel Portos in the kitchen with the inmates of Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, for “generosity and transmission”

Le chef Michel Portos a déjà de nombreuses expériences d’interventions en milieu carcéral. Midi Libre – JEAN-MICHEL MART

Le chef marseillais intervenait jeudi 18 avril à la maison d’arrêt pour préparer un dîner avec les détenus de l’établissement qui s’engagent comme auxiliaires de cuisine. Une leçon de gastronomie et de partage, dans la simplicité et la confiance.

A beef stir-fry with spices on the fire, and a boiling kitchen. This Thursday, April 18, a particular excitement stirs the stoves of the Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone remand center. Among the kitchen assistant inmates, no less than a 2-star Michelin chef, Michel Portos from Marseillais, who came to share his passion around the preparation of a dinner. 900 place settings to serve for all the inmates, that same evening.

"She’is a good person, very welcoming !"

Steven and Jérémy, two of the 37 prisoners who take turns preparing meals every day, are delighted. "A starred chef at the remand center is not something common! Since this morning, he has been showing us how to work with fresh produce, flavor mixtures, sauces. It motivates us to work." The personality of the boss also has its effect. "We're like family ! She is a good person, very welcoming. He offered us an internship in his restaurant in the Old Port, when we left. Plus he's for Marseille and so are we!"

But no question of football for the moment. You have to watch out for the beef being preserved and the sauce with exotic accents simmering alongside, between coconut milk, lime and coriander. "We also prepare spiced beans, a recipe from my mother, with orange juice, garlic, onion& ;quot;, specifies Michel Portos. "For dessert, it will be waffles with mint pastry cream." The chef has only known his brigade since this morning, but everything happens as if it had always been there. "He knows how to attract support. We see the inmates very attentive. They want to learn", observes Yves Delsol, director currently providing reinforcement at the penitentiary center.

"Pierre Troisgros said to me: cooking is about generosity and transmission"

It must be said that the Marseillais is not his first experience in a prison environment. "The starting point was in 2013, when Marseille was the European capital of culture, he says. I was offered an operation at Baumettes prison. Since then, I have gone to the prisons of Grasse, Toulon, Avignon, Tarascon, Nantes, to prepare lunches, dinners, or organize cooking competitions." A way to stay faithful to a principle: "When I left Pierre Troisgrois's, he told me, "cooking is generosity and transmission". By working in a hotel school, a CFA or a remand center, I always have the feeling of contributing something."

For Michel Portos, the prison environment changes nothing in his approach. "Inside or outside, a kitchen is a kitchen. I don't care what the detainees did. The important thing is to work with people who want to." Dylan, inmate responsible for cleaning in the kitchen of the remand center, takes advantage of this opportunity: "This experience is a plus for our life at home ;rsquo;outside, when we go out."

Inmates coming on their day of rest

"I've never seen them motivated like that. Many came to work even though it’s their day of rest", confides Hervé, kitchen and production manager, who helps supervise the inmates in the preparation meals. "You have to know how to tell them things, but at the right time, otherwise they become angry very quickly. Some work in the kitchen to prepare for their reintegration. Two are currently being supported to prepare for a diploma."

Michel Portos, for his part, spent a second day in Villeneuve-lès-Maguelone, Friday April 19, this time to cook in the mess of the remand center, for the staff. The chef wants to continue to share his know-how with incarcerated people. Starting with the largest prison in France. "I cherish the hope of going to Fleury-Mérogis, prepare a meal for more than 4 000 people ."

Michel Portos: “They say: we are happy that someone takes care of us”

How do you go about it when you come to a prison environment?

My principle is to do in detention as I do outside. I tell them that you have to be respectful of the product. I am not looking for à stroke in the direction of the hair.

Did you have any apprehension the first time you intervened in a prison?

Yes. It was at Les Baumettes, at Marseilles. Çmoved me, even though I met her lovely people. When I went out, I called her. to say that I would not come à my restaurant. But I never felt bad à comfortable in the company of inmates. The only time where I attended &agrav; a skirmish between inmates took place in a women's prison.

While spending time with the inmates, do some confide in them?

Yes, there are some who are speaking out. I remember that once, à During the coffee break, I asked for lunch. &agrav; from the inmates what job they did at home outside. They replied: "robbers" !

For you, cooking can be a path to reintegration?

We believe it! For this, you need an environment. I had two restaurants that I sold after Covid. Every year, I welcomed former prisoners. When they were at my house, they were framed. When I speak to inmates, they say "we are happy that someone is taking care of us". It’s not just about training & a profession, but to spend time with them to introduce them to the taste and later, they return home doing so. eat differently.

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