RAY BROOK - At the Federal Correctional Institute here, inmates have two food options: cafeteria or microwave.
The latter was the choice of one of this prison's most famous inmates, and he now says he wants to turn the culinary skills he developed behind bars into a cookbook, in which every dish would be microwavable.
Rapper and actor Ja Rule, whose offstage name is Jeffrey Atkins, lived at FCI Ray Brook from February to May this year for tax evasion, following a nearly two-year stint in New York state prison for illegal gun possession. He failed to pay taxes on more than $3 million earned between 2004 and 2006.
The 37-year-old Queens native shared his cookbook idea during an appearance on Geoffrey Zakarian's SiriusXM show "Food Talk," which aired Wednesday.
That followed an impromptu video interview with celebrity gossip website TMZ, in which Ja Rule said he didn't eat much prison cafeteria food.
"It's not too good," he said, "but you get packages of stuff there, and you can eat decent enough.
"I didn't go to the chow hall too much, you know. We usually just cooked in our dorm."
He wasn't clear whether this cooking took place at FCI Ray Brook, in the New York state prison system or both, but the grocery packages would have had to come through the state system, unless they were contraband.
FCI Ray Brook spokeswoman Michelle Gonyea said inmates at that medium-security facility are not allowed to receive outside food but can buy some food in the commissary, such as pasta, rice, Raman noodles and macaroni and cheese.
At most state prisons, however, inmates are allowed two food packages per month, with a combined weight not exceeding 35 pounds, according to the New York Department of Corrections and Community Supervision website.
Ja Rule told TMZ he ate "a lot of fish, a lot of salmon" as protein to help him bulk up while working out in the gym "all day, every day." Beyond that, he said, "In jail they're pretty crafty, so we made lasagna, we made cheesecakes, we had whole lots of stuff."
"They're clever," said Gonyea, who had read the TMZ interview. "They're creative."