Prison-themed cafe 'repulsive'

Women in orange jumpsuits (above) serve the meals at the Singapore prison-themed dining event.
Women in orange jumpsuits (above) serve the meals at the Singapore prison-themed dining event.ST PHOTO: YIP WAI YEE

Orange Is The New Black author sees red over event to promote the latest season of television series of the same name

Orange Is The New Black: My Year In A Women's Prison author Piper Kerman has called a Singapore prison-themed dining event "repulsive", but diners at the event yesterday were unfazed.

Known as the Litchfield Penitentiary Cafeteria experience, the free two-day pop-up event, which opened to the public yesterday at lunch time, allows patrons to eat grub in a jail-like cafeteria.

Orchard Road's OverEasy restaurant has been set up to look like the cafeteria featured in the popular Netflix comedy drama series Orange Is The New Black, which is based on Kerman's memoir.

Earlier this week, the 46-year-old writer had told online magazine Jezebel that the event was insensitive to prisoners: "This is repulsive."

The event is organised by Netflix to promote the fourth and latest season of the acclaimed series, which launches on the online streaming service today. When contacted, Netflix declines to comment.

But chef Bjorn Shen, owner of Singapore restaurants Artichoke in Middle Road and Bird Bird in Ann Siang Road and who was hired to create the menu for the event, told The Straits Times: "The event is done in good spirit to promote the show."

Diners interviewed say they enjoyed themselves and did not think it was done in poor taste.

Junior college student Mircalla Wong, 17, a "huge fan" of the show, took photos of the surroundings, which also features standees of the actresses from the show and a security scanner prior to entry.

She said: "This event is made for fans to have a good time and get us excited about the show's new season. The place looks very good and, for fans, it's worth our time to come and experience it."

Mr Lee Min Quan, 28, a senior sales executive also at the lunch yesterday, agreed. "This whole thing is just a gimmick and it's all for fun. No one is disrespecting anything."

Although he said the food looked "scary", he enjoyed it. "It's done by Bjorn, so it can't taste bad."

The meals, which are served in trays, include a corn dish with jalapenos and spiced butter.

A total of 480 seats were reserved online for the two-day event, which continues for lunch and dinner today. Walk-ins are available and the meals are free.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 17, 2016, with the headline 'Prison-themed cafe 'repulsive''. Print Edition | Subscribe