unlock doors all the time, allowing prisoners access to areas
for food storage and holding.”
Cabinets are also constantly locked and unlocked to get out
cookware, dishes and utensils.
In spite of safety precautions, things happen. Matt Dunaj,
CEC, commissary supervisor at the Macomb Correctional
Facility, Lenox, Mich., recalls an incident on his watch
around the 100-gallon steel kettle. Two inmate cooks each
had 4-foot-long stainless steel paddles and ended up in a
scuffle. He called for help to break up the bloody fight. It
was back to business as usual after wiping down the whole
kitchen. “That’s the kind of thing we work with, and it could
happen any part of the day,” he says.
The Macomb correctional facility inmates eat in shifts, which
for lunch begins at 11 a.m. and for dinner, 4 p.m. The food has
to be prepared exactly on time or the whole prison schedule is
thrown off, Dunaj says.
The biggest career benefits to Dunaj are—well—the benefits.
He only works 40 hours a week, leaving him with family time.
At age 42, he’s looking forward to retirement at age 50, just
hoping the facility doesn’t privatize the foodservice operations
He also enjoys teaching. “Not all the inmates are bad, I
don’t think. They have different circumstances that got them
here. I try to teach them skills so when they do get out there’s
a possibility for them to get viable employment,” he says.
And, Dunaj has opportunities to test new recipes and
to create menu schemes that go across corrections
Most facilities cook in bulk using convection ovens, kettles,
tilt skillets and steamers. “Fryers are disappearing due to
concerns of the dietitians for fat levels, and the menus are all
nutritionally analyzed,” says O’Brien.
He spent more than 18 years in hotels, hospitals and restaurants
before joining the Department of Corrections. “It has changed
my life, and, I believe, for the better,” he says. His normal work
schedule has left him time to be involved in the American
Culinary Federation (ACF), even serving on the board of his
local ACF chapter. He also is chapter and state president for
Michigan for the Association of Correctional Food Service
Specifics of food preparation in government-run facilities
depend on the type of facility, says Benson Li, manager of
the Sheriff’s Food Services Unit for Los Angeles County,