The Clink's Alberto Crisci has made the finals of the Basque Culinary World Prize, a €100,000 (£76,000) award for chefs who have helped make a better society through food.
Crisci, now a Member of the British Empire (MBE), is the only UK-based chef on the shortlist.
According to competition rules, winners must ‘demonstrate how gastronomy can be a powerful force for change: those men or women whose impact can be felt beyond the kitchen.'
The 2011 Catey Award winner certainly fulfils that criterion.
Then a catering manager at a Surrey prison, Crisci launched the first Clink restaurant seven years ago. Since then, he has helped more than 500 offenders to succeed in the catering industry through full training, mentoring and support. He is also a co-founder of the Clink charity.
The Clink restaurants, which are Ofsted-recognised catering colleges, now operate in four prisons, while a fifth programme, the Clink Gardens, trains prisoners in horticulture and smallholding. The produce is used by the prison restaurants. The charity has also branched out into event catering.
By the end of next year, the Clink has committed to doubling its footprint to 10 training centres, enabling up to 500 offenders to return to outside life fully trained and highly skilled every year. The charity will need £2m to achieve that goal.
But he faces stiff competition from 19 other chefs from across the world and the ultimate winner will not be announced until 11 July.
"I am pleasantly surprised," said Crisci, who did not realise he had been nominated for the award. "I have always shown an interest in the Basque region because they have got so many amazing restaurants there so to be recognised in some way by that region means a lot.
"Just to be nominated will hopefully create more opportunities for ex-offenders and homeless people as more and more people become aware of the Clink and the Clink Charity."
Asked how he would use the €100,000 prize should he win, he said: "It's a no-brainer. It would go towards the Clink to continue the good work we are doing. We are developing Clink events at the moment and we want to create a central production kitchen for the events where we can train ex-offenders and homeless people in the real work environment in and around London. It would be really useful because we are currently fundraising for that."
Those deciding who claims the prize include Heston Blumenthal, Ferran Adrià, Gastón Acurio, Alex Atala, Dominique Crenn, Massim Bottura, Michael Bras and René Redzepi.
The full list of nominated chefs is:
• Alberto Crisci, UK
• Alicia Gironella, Mexico
• Angel León, Spain
• Ann Cooper, USA
• Carlos Zamora, Spain
• Daniel Boulud, France/USA
• David Hertz, Brazil
• Gabriel Garza, Mexico
• Jessamyn Rodriguez, Canada/USA
• José Andrés, Spain
• Joshna Maharaj, India/Canada
• Kamilla Seidler, Denmark, and Michelangelo Cestari, Venezuela
• Leonor Espinosa, Colombia
• Manoela (Manu) Buffara, Brazil
• Margot Janse, Holland/South Africa
• Maria Fernanda Di Giacobbe, Venezuela
• Massimiliano Alajmo, Italy
• Nani Moré, Spain
• Rodolfo Guzman, Chile
• Teresa Corçao, Brazil
See more about each shortlisted chef at: http://www.basqueculinaryworldprize.com/