“Every human being regardless of their past has the right to a fair and equal future”

~ Brandon E. Chrostowski

EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute is a unique approach at giving formerly-incarcerated adults a foundation in the hospitality industry  while providing a support network necessary for a successful reentry. EDWINS goal is to enhance the community of Cleveland’s vulnerable neighborhoods by providing its future leaders. Our mission is to teach a skilled trade in the culinary arts, empower willing minds through passion for the hospitality industry and prepare students for a successful transition into the world of business professionals.

Our belief is that we can change the face of reentry across the world.

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.

  • 50,000 Ohioans are being held in incarceration each year
  • Over 20,000 convicts are released each year, of which over 20% are re-entered in Cuyahoga County
  • Nearly 1 in 3 return to prison within 3 years after being released
  • The State of Ohio spends over $1.3 billion dollars each year on prisons
The challenges faced by Ohio’s returning citizens that contribute to the recidivism rate include a lack of:
  • Goals and a structured environment
  • Job skills and availability of skilled jobs
  • Housing, income, and a support system
  • A stable, supportive community

The restaurant and hospitality industry is the nation’s second-largest private sector employer and is growing in north east Ohio.

  • Restaurants in Ohio register over $16 billion in sales every year
  • Nearly 525,000 Ohioans are employed by the hospitality industry every year with a projected increase in 5% over the next decade
  • Cleveland is expected to add over 1,300 new jobs every year in the culinary and hospitality industry

The goal of EDWINS is to create a pipeline of skilled talent into one of Cleveland’s growth industries: Restaurants and Hospitality.  This will address the challenges of re-entry by providing Ohio’s returning citizens:

  • A structured educational program
  • Job skills that are in high demand immediately
  • The foundation of a long term career
  • Employment and access to re-entry services
  • An environment of security, stability, and opportunity

The EDWINS program will:

  • Create an educational program that provides 6 months of intensive training in food preparation, food service, and hospitality
  • Establish a fully functioning kitchen and commercial restaurant that is open to the public and located within the city of Cleveland
  • Collaborate with an existing transition support organization in Cleveland
  • Provide a modest stipend for students attending and meeting the program’s performance standards
  • Provide students exposure to experienced industry specialists as teachers, mentors, and potential employers