Mdm Shie Yong Lee, Commissioner of Prisons,
Mr Chng Hwee Hong, Chairman of Yellow Ribbon Singapore,
Mr Eric Neo, President of Singapore Chefs’ Association,
Distinguished guests, friends, families of finalists, and officers in SPS,
I am honoured to be here today at the grand finale of the Yellow Ribbon Culinary Competition 2021. The Yellow Ribbon Project, in short YRP, aims to raise awareness, promote acceptance and inspire community action to support the successful reintegration of ex-offenders. It is spearheaded by the Community Action for the Rehabilitation of Ex-offenders, also known as the CARE Network, which is co-led by the Singapore Prison Service and Yellow Ribbon Singapore.
The Yellow Ribbon Culinary Competition 2021 is the first YRP event of 2021. Held in partnership with the Singapore Chefs’ Association, it aims to equip inmates with skills relevant to the Food & Beverage Industry to enhance their employability after their release. For the Singapore Chefs’ Association, this is also their first virtual cooking competition. To observe Safe Management Measures, the food prepared by the participants was sent safely to the judges, and the judges and participants interact with each other via Zoom.
The theme for this year’s competition is “Recipe for Change”. It is inspired by the community’s resilience in overcoming the unprecedented disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the inmates’ determination to develop their own “recipes for change” in their rehabilitation journey. The participants were taught basic culinary skills and techniques, and how to present their food in sustainable food packaging without causing more plastic waste. I love the quote shared by one of the judges in the video – “the skills that you acquire will stay with you for life”.
The participants also learnt about the challenges and issues F&B companies face and how to stay relevant. Our F&B companies are in need of talents like yourselves. Have no doubt that if there is a desire for you to join the F&B industry, there will be vacancies available. For example, there is a sudden surge in demand for food delivery that arose from COVID-19. F&B companies also having to re-think how food can be cooked and delivered to customers while retaining its freshness.
I would also like to share the story of Royce, a former offender who has contributed significantly to the success of this competition. He is one of the two mentor chefs to the participants. Royce was trained in culinary skills during his incarceration. After his release in 2017, he joined the F&B industry and took part in cooking competitions. Today, he is the Head Chef in Research & Development of Food Products at H&Z Mart Pte Ltd. One the ways Royce is giving back to society is to cook for the elderly in an old folks’ home. There might be some community or social cause that may resonate with you. Find your own way to give back and I tell you, food connects everyone. Royce also taught a low-income family how to bake and sell their products to earn some money. He paid it forward by not only whipping up a meal for the family but also taught them a skill to future-proof themselves. I am very happy to see Royce here with us today. Thank you Royce for your contributions.
Through this competition, we hope to generate greater awareness about giving ex-offenders a second chance. Every one of us deserves a second chance. The rehabilitation and reintegration journey is often a challenging one for inmates, ex-offenders and their families. Every form of support counts. I am heartened to hear that YRSG is in discussion with some employers who are keen to hire the Finalists of this competition. We hope more partners can come on board to work with YRSG to provide training for the prisoners and opportunities for ex-offenders to be employed. YRSG aims to create more awareness on the need for skills upgrading for inmates and ex-offenders and will continue in its efforts to upgrade their skills to enhance their employability.
Under the TAP (Train and Place) and Grow initiative, which is a new scheme, YRSG will partner industry partners like employers, trade associations and training institutions to establish career progression pathways for inmates and ex-offenders. Working with the relevant Continuing Education and Training (CET) Centres, inmates will undergo industry-specific training to be equipped with nationally accredited skills that are aligned with Singapore’s Skills Framework. YRSG will work closely with trade associations and employers to facilitate the recruitment of ex-offenders in relevant industries, including options for traineeships or attachments. Like every Singaporean, these ex-offenders will be able to deepen their skills to build their career and also take part in national level initiatives like SkillsFuture.
Congratulations to all participants for successfully competing in this year’s Yellow Ribbon Culinary Competition. We are so proud of you. Regardless of the result more importantly, let’s remember that this is a significant and meaningful milestone in your recipe for change. We wish you every success in your next chapter and may your new skills open many doors of opportunities for you!