EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute was born “from a break” that Brandon Chrostowski received early in life and meeting a mentor in Detroit named Chef George while on probation. Watching as friends and family cycled in and out of the justice system, like a merry go round, Chrostowski learned culinary arts and the art of hospitality from George so well that set him on a path to Hyde Park, New York and in class at The Culinary Institute of America. It was there that the power of a mentor was realized, upon arrival Chrostowski was a leader. Success followed, from Charlie Trotters in Chicago to a Michelin 3 star in France as well as the elite in NYC.
After achieving what was considered impossible and reflecting upon his past Chrostowski felt compelled to build the experience Chef George built for him; a fine dining restaurant that teaches those touched by our justice system the fundamentals of cooking and hospitality. Finding a way to face the challenges of returning home from jail or prison was the inspiration for EDWINS. This is how it began.
In 2004 Chrostowski returned to school at The Culinary Institute of America and wrote the business plan and began building the curriculum of what EDWINS is today! Upon graduation he returned to NYC to work on where he was weak meeting other mentors that would shape the EDWINS philosophy. Finally in 2007 while in Manhattan EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute was incorporated and received its 501 c 3 status. In late 2008 the move to Cleveland, Ohio took place. Why Cleveland? Because of its startling low high school graduation rate in 1998, the year Chrostowski was arrested. As some may know low high school graduation rates are used to help predict growth in incarceration.
The journey and lessons Chrostowski learned are found throughout EDWINS. The philosophy of “making it happen with what you have” (Chicago),”hard work has no language”( Paris), it’s not “practice that makes perfect rather perfect practice makes perfect” and “investing in yourself before someone will invest in you” (NYC).
EDWINS prison program proudly began at Grafton Correctional Camp in 2011 and continues today, every Sunday, nine months a year. The restaurant in Cleveland opened in 2013 and plans for opening its campus and dorm rooms are on pace for 2015.
A second chance and mentor began the story and now the support and sacrifice of a strong team, individuals and organizations giving heroically and the community of Cleveland are keeping it going.