The Yellow Ribbon Culinary Competition serves up first-class food and second chances 

If you are hungry as this Monday ends, think about these tasty treats: 

Stuffed eggplant with mint cream cheese dip for a medley of rich textures.  

Begedil-in-a-popiah bringing a uniquely Singaporean, very fresh twist to tacos. 

Plant-based seafood sticks with a sweet Asian dip as a zesty glimpse of a more sustainable food future.  

And more besides, all plated professionally and proudly (just look at the image up there again!) by inmates at the finals of the Yellow Ribbon Culinary Competition (YRCC) this past Thursday (Jun 15) in Changi Prison. 

Going through the YRCC honed culinary skills for inmates and ex-offenders; this will help with their employment opportunities while rejoining society.  

Especially since Singapore has such a strong food culture that “today makan where?” is how we start conversations — this even while Singaporeans don’t cook that much at home these days. Those delicious makan options need to come from other people. 

Plus, like Senior Ministry of State for Sustainability and the Environment Amy Khor mentioned at the Competition: 

“I firmly believe that we should not be defined by our past mistakes. If someone is sincere in turning their lives around, and willing to put in the hard work, they should be given a second chance.” 

Supporting Hilary’s plans and Kartik’s success

Part of this second chance for inmates and ex-offenders after release involves the PAP Government providing the next step allied alongside community partners and with the Singapore Workforce Skills Qualification national credential system for workforce-relevant jobs. 

Take Ms Hilary, who participated in the YRCC this year making excellent nasi lemak balls.     

“Since Hilary was 5, she would help out at her grandmother’s nasi lemak stall. Unfortunately, her grandmother passed on when she was 16, but having helped out for 10-plus years with her grandmother, she had gained the know-how of cooking nasi lemak, albeit informally,” shared SMS Khor. 

Source: Yellow Ribbon Singapore / Facebook 

“Hilary plans to join HCSA Academy Culinary Training Centre to pursue a WSQ Higher Certificate in Food Services upon release. I’m very heartened by this. I’m particularly glad to hear that she hopes to follow her grandmother’s footsteps to open a Nasi Lemak stall and is already taking active steps to fulfil this ambition.” 

These next, continually-supported steps can take not only well-advised women far.  

Motivated men can go places too, like a certain Mr Karthik has. 

“Upon his release in 2019, he pursued a diploma in Culinary Arts and went on to work in several F&B establishments,” said SMS Khor of this inspiring ex-offender.   

“Today, he is an executive sous-chef in a fine dining restaurant. He has also appeared on a Vasantham cooking show and represented HCSA as part of the President’s Challenge Award.” 

Kartik is among many ex-offenders who show that you are not defined by your past, and anyone who works hard on their goals can create their own success,” emphasised SMS Khor. 

The ripple effect of second chances 

YRCC’s organiser Yellow Ribbon Singapore (YRS), which is a statuary board set up by the PAP Government, supports this hard work and motivation. YRS raises awareness and acceptance for ex-offenders as well as takes action for these fellow Singaporeans, so that they are included back into society.   

Singapore’s two-year reoffending rate was at 20 per cent in 2021 (a 30-year low and very good compared to the rest of the world), in fact. YRS’s efforts to help ex-offenders get back on their feet like the YRF STAR Bursary and the annual Yellow Ribbon Race around Changi Prison have helped here.  

In particular, a stable job from understanding employers does break vicious cycles of life, preventing people from sliding into crime once more and helping them support their loved ones. 

Especially now, with difficult times ahead globally.  

Source: Yellow Ribbon Singapore / Facebook 

“We all have a role to play in supporting our ex-offenders as they reintegrate into the community,” said SMS Khor.  

“When you offer our ex-offenders a second chance, you create a ripple effect, inspiring others to do the same.”