Celebrity chef in hot water again

Claus Meyer is in the spotlight again after producing documentary series about prisoners learning how to cook

Crime victims are enraged after a new documentary series, 'Restaurant Behind Bars', produced by celebrity chef Claus Meyer debuted last night to much debate and criticism.

The show concept centres around 20 inmates incarcerated in Vridsløselille State Prison where they, over an eight-week period, learn to cook high-quality food under Meyer's tutelage. The project, seen by some as a social experiment, is produced in co-operation with Meyer and the criminal welfare committee Kriminalforsogen.

Meyer and inmates have gone hand-in-hand as of late. He first landed in hot water a few weeks ago after assault victim Marlene Duus told the media that her assailant was a trainee at Meyer's bakery. Three years ago, her ex-boyfriend had beaten her into unconsciousness with a metal pipe and then tossed her out of a third-story window, leaving her partially paralysed.

Lotte Lindgaard, the head of programming for the television channel DR1, which is airing the programme, contends that the project addresses important social issues and promotes a healthy debate.

“We have never had any doubts about the project,” Lindegaard told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “We are participating because we find it interesting to discuss the options concerning rehabilitation so that we can get the criminals set on a better path.”

Hennig Wollsen, the chairman of the victims' advocacy group Hjælp Voldsofre, thinks that DR and Kriminalforsogen appear unethical by letting a group of convicted criminals be part of a TV cooking show.

“[Victims] don’t know if their assailants will suddenly pop up in the show, and it must be a shocking surprise especially since they will essentially be conveyed as TV stars,” told Politken newspaper.

Meyer told Politiken that he was surprised at the explosive reaction to his TV programme and stressed that his wish was only to contribute to the prevention of crime by rehabilitating inmates who had served their terms.

“Additionally, I am convinced that the victims are the last people we should consult about the rehabilitation issues," Meyer said. “If we did that, we would be measuring the punishment administered in correlation to the pain experienced by the victim and that’s not justice, but blatant revenge.”

Wollsen disagreed with Meyer that the documentary has value as a social experiment.

“I’ve seen the first episode of the series and it is pure entertainment," he said. "It’s simply wrong to entertain people on a foundation of personal tragedy.”

In connection with the show, a brand new kitchen was installed in the prison to the tune of 500,000 kroner, jointly financed by Meyer and DR.

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