Our Mission

EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization that gives formerly incarcerated adults a foundation in the hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary for long-term success. 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 home.

EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant was founded in 2007 with the belief that every human being regardless of their past has a right to a fair and equal future. In 2011 EDWINS started teaching in Grafton Prison, followed shortly thereafter by the opening of the restaurant in the fall of 2013.

Students are not only equipped with basic culinary skills, but are also assisted with finding employment, and have the opportunity to utilize free housing, legal counsel, basic medical care, clothing, job coaching, literacy programs and more.

In 2016, EDWINS opened the EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center, a 20,000 square foot campus for living, working and playing.

Today EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute graduates nearly 100 students a year between its prison program and restaurant and institute at Shaker Square. Graduates of the program have gained employment in Cleveland’s finest restaurants after finishing the program or after release from prison. The results have been astounding 95% employment after graduation.

EDWINS has received three stars from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, was regarded by The New York Times as “High-Stakes Haut Cuisine, is a Silver Spoon recipient for Best French restaurant from Cleveland Magazine and was called one of the best new restaurants in Cleveland by Scene magazine. EDWINS has been featured in the Washington Post, Food and Wine, Forbes, The City Journal as well as on the Steve Harvey Show and CNN. It was also showcased in the award winning documentary Knife Skills by Academy Award Winning director Tom Lennon.

EDWINS continues its outreach in prisons via its Culinary Clubs and has also purchased a building for the upcoming EDWINS Butcher Shop. Renovations are underway and the Butcher Shop is expected to open in 2018.

Our Team

BRANDON EDWIN CHROSTOWSKI, FOUNDER, PRESIDENT AND CEO

Brandon Chrostowski photo 2016

Brandon Edwin Chrostowski is on a mission to change the face of re-entry in the United States. In 2007, he founded EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute. His belief that “every human being regardless of their past has the right to a fair and equal future” is what has driven the creation of EDWINS. The idea for EDWINS was born “from a break” that Chrostowski received early in life and has grown into a six-month program conducted at EDWINS restaurant in Cleveland, Ohio as well as in prison. His approach is simple: arm those re-entering society with a skill set and a smile. The program provides training in Culinary Arts and the Hospitality Industry. Individuals are not only equipped with basic culinary skills, but also are assisted with finding employment, have the opportunity to utilize free housing, basic medical care, clothing, job coaching, and literacy programs.

Chrostowski began his career in Detroit sixteen years ago and has since trained in some of the world’s finest restaurants. He received an Associate’s degree in Culinary Arts and a Bachelor’s degree in Business and Restaurant Management at The Culinary Institute of America. He apprenticed at Chicago’s legendary restaurant, Charlie Trotters and after graduation worked at Lucas Carton, Paris’ longest standing Michelin 3-star restaurant. At Lucas Carton, Brandon began to develop cutting-edge skills, while learning the intricacies of a French kitchen.

After spending time in Europe, Brandon decided to return to the United States to refine further what he learned in France. In New York City, Brandon worked at Le Cirque, Picholine and Chanterelle, a New York Times and James Beard award-winning restaurant, while working under the tutelage of restaurateurs Karen and David Waltuck. At Chanterelle, Brandon also worked closely with Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn and was so inspired became a certified sommelier himself.

Leaving New York to start EDWINS in Cleveland was the next step. He chose Cleveland because it is a city with high incarceration and poverty yet it is in a region who understood re-entry and its potential. In 2011 the program began in Grafton prison and in 2013 the restaurant and institute opened its doors in Cleveland. Brandon’s commitment to EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute has grown from teaching in prisons to opening its flagship restaurant as well as building a 20,000-square foot campus that offers free housing, workout facility, library, basketball court and other amenities.  Today EDWINS Leadership and restaurant Institute graduates over 100 students a year between its prison program and restaurant institute.

Chrostowski’s philosophy is simple, “make it happen”. No matter what the problem is it can be solved with hard work and care.  This approach has led to the success of EDWINS and a revolution in the non profit world.  Issues from housing, health care and substance abuse treatment are all addressed while at EDWINS. Graduates of the program have gained employment in Cleveland’s finest restaurants after finishing the program or after release from prison. The results have been astounding 97% employment after graduation and 1% recidivism.

The success of this work and other initiatives led by Chrostowski has earned him over dozens of awards including the 2016 CNN Hero, The Richard Cornuelle Award from the Manhattan Institute for Social Entrepreneurship as well as Crain’s 40 under 40. He has spoken at a number of Universities and corporations but is most proud if his TED X talk, his speech at The United States Senate and The City Club.  Fighting for fair and equal opportunities has also earned Chrostowski media from countless outlets such as The New York Times, Washington Post, The City Journal, Forbes, Food & Wine, The Irish Times, HR Magazine, The Cleveland Plain Dealer and more. He has also been featured on Steve Harvey as a Harvey’s Hero, TD Jakes, CNN, NBC, ABC, NPR, WKSU and is the feature of the newly released documentary called Knife Skills by Oscar winner Thomas Lennon.

Brandon continues his commitment to the community. He was so upset with the condition of Cleveland’s inner city and local leadership that he ran for Mayor in the 2017 election.  He finished fourth out of nine candidates in the primary surprising many in the political circle. Brandon is a proud father of two, Leo and Lilly and is crazy about his wife Catana!


GERRY GRIM, DIRECTOR OF CULINARY

Edwins_Interiors_Staff_237-300x200Gerry Grim discovered his love of the kitchen learning under one of the best cooks he knows – his mom. Many years later, after diverging from a successful career as a golf professional and teacher, Chef Grim graduated from Le Cordon Bleu. He now brings more than a decade of practical knowledge to the EDWINS’ kitchen.

With diverse culinary experiences along the way, the highlights for Chef Grim include cooking under the direction of Chef Keith Coughenour at the esteemed Duquesne Club in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. At the Duquesne Club, he learned the dedication required to work in a professional kitchen and developed his passion for classical French cuisine.

From there, Chef Grim was able to expand on his classical roots when he moved back to his hometown of Cleveland and worked under Chef Doug Katz at fire food and drink. Chef Katz instilled the belief in him to use local and sustainable products and to run a fully-from-scratch kitchen.

Chef Grim originally joined EDWINS as a volunteer to help Brandon Chrostowski teach culinary skills at the Grafton Correctional Institution, and was so moved by EDWINS’ mission that he decided to join the staff full time with the hope that he can help people who were formerly-incarcerated have a better life. Today, he is proud to serve as EDWINS' Director of Culinary.


JORDAN LEVINE, GENERAL MANAGER

jordanJordan Levine has been working in restaurants for 18 years, first washing dishes at his cousin’s pizza parlor before moving up to cooking and serving positions there.

Jordan attended the University of Toledo where he earned his bachelors degree in communication. During that time, he continued to expand his culinary techniques working as a baker and cook in a local middle eastern eatery, while also writing for the school newspaper.

Moving back home to Cleveland, Jordan worked for five years as a server for the Moxie and Red restaurant group in Beachwood where he learned the fundamentals of formal dining and gained a knack for creating memorable guest experiences.

Jordan continued to hone his skills as a server at L’Albatross Brasserie where he discovered his love for French food and wine. During his time there, the restaurant was consistently praised for having the best service in Cleveland.


ALEXANDER CARLIN, WINE DIRECTOR

Born and raised in Baltimore, Maryland, Alexander studied English and Art History culminating with a dual degree. He began his career working for a publishing house where he focused on the manuscripts of prison writers, their stories, and publishing their works during incarceration and on the road to rehabilitation. While the job was rewarding, the economy and its pressures shut the publishing house down not long after he started.

At a crossroads, Alexander recalled his passion and love of wine from his extensive travels in Europe and decided to pursue certification from the Court of Master Sommelier’s. This represented the turning point for finding his calling in the hospitality industry and his love of service. Since then, he has been at the helm for acclaimed wine programs including Michael Mina and Mario Batali, after cutting his teeth with Jean Georges and Daniel Boulud.

Alexander holds certifications from the Court of Master Sommelier’s, the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, and the United States Bartender’s Guild. He is also currently pursuing his Master Diploma. In his free time, Alexander enjoys spending time experimenting in the kitchen, hiking with his Sheltie, Phoebe, and attending the Cleveland Orchestra.


 

CHRIS TERRY, CHEF DE CUISINE

Chris-Terry-2-300x199As part of the team that opened L’albatros Brasserie, Chris Terry brings a broad base of knowledge from a vast collection of experiences. Born in the “salad bowl” region of California, then being raised in the “corn belt” of Iowa and having a parent with a botanical background, Chris’ love for fresh produce has been reinforced and diversified his whole life. With an expansive education background of Engineering, Automotive, Technology, and Architecture, a “big picture” view on life was developed.

After working for the state of Iowa and starting his own business, his move to the culinary world was almost by mistake. Soon he was managing kitchens around Ames, Iowa and became Chef de Cuisine of Audubon’s Restaurant inside the acclaimed Gateway Hotel and Conference Center before attending classes at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. Chris has since continued to grow as a Culinarian working at The Naples beach Hotel and Conference Center in Florida as well as Blue Canyon in Twinsburg, Ohio.

Chris enjoys home-brewing, gardening, and beer/wine and food pairing, in his spare time.


AMANDA ROY, EXECUTIVE SOUS CHEF

Sous chef Amanda Roy came to EDWINS from Trentina, and she brings invaluable experience and a commitment to sustainability.

She previously worked in New York at Public, a Michelin starred establishment, and spent several years there refining her speed and accuracy – or, as she describes it, learning how to “dance the four squares” around her.

Amanda also enjoyed several years in Chicago at The Butcher and Larder honing her butchery skills, and tenure at Mado gave her experience in sustainability and utilization.

A family friend who was a chef and restaurateur in Howell, Michigan, where Amanda was raised, instilled in her a love of cooking. It was at his restaurant where she learned how to first hold a knife as a young girl, and she instantly bonded to the kitchen.

Later, Amanda’s formal education started at Cuyahoga Valley Career Center (CVCC) where she graduated from the high school culinary program. She attended Kendall University and earned her Associate’s degree in culinary arts. While she was in school, Amanda took a position at one of Chicago’s top establishments, The Everest Room, where her path first crossed with EDWINS’ founder Brandon Chrostowski.

The EDWINS staff will tell you that Amanda exemplifies doing what it takes to get the job done. As someone who naturally gravitates toward teaching and mentoring, she is glad for the rare opportunity EDWINS offers to grow and share all she has learned with our students.


JON KHANNA, DIRECTOR OF EDUCATIONJon-Khanna-EDWINS-300x199

After completing his Bachelor’s degree in Hospitality Management from Ohio State University, Jon began his pursuit of a career in the restaurant business. His love of fine dining and food started as a young boy while traveling through the States and Europe with his family. He had a particular liking for French food and the open air markets of Paris and Provence.

Jon has been working in the restaurant industry for over 20 years. He started young working with his mom in her gourmet food store where he leaned classic French techniques. From that point forward he continued to delve deeper into French cuisine traveling to France a number of times. After school he continued to grow his talents working for the Hyatt as well as Mayfield Sandridge Country Club where he was a sous chef. Deciding he wanted to make the move to the front of the house he joined the team at Sergio's Sarava where he worked his way up from expediter to general manager within a year.

He continued his education along the way in food and he started to delve deeper into wine eventually earning his Certified Sommelier Certificate. He also became a ServSafe Proctor and a Ohio Level 2 Food Safety Proctor and Instructor.

In his free time Jon enjoys golfing, traveling and entertaining family and friends.


MICHELLE MATTOX, PASTRY CHEFIMG_7770

Michelle Mattox’s passion for the culinary arts first began when she was 17, working for the Brown Derby doing food prep. She then took a position at Cleveland PM’s, working the line.

Michelle always had a passion for pastry and when she had a chance to come to the EDWINS program she jumped on in. Throughout her 6 months in the program she excelled in a number of different areas but leading a team. She continued to want to jump deeper into pastries and worked closely with local pastry chefs to increase her knowledge and become an expert in her field.

Michelle wants to continue learning her field and truly become the best pastry chef in the city of Cleveland.


 

JON BOSWORTH, BAR MANAGERDSC_0100-300x199

As Jon Bosworth planned his future, he was divided between becoming a teacher or going to culinary school. Jon chose teaching, completing two years at Ashland University.

Later, after fulfilling an externship at the quintessentially innovative cocktail bar, The Spotted Owl, and graduating from the EDWINS program, Jon felt like he was getting a second chance to do what he wanted to do: combining teaching and the culinary arts. He earned a position as EDWINS’ Bar Manager in 2015, where he enjoys the opportunity to teach our students how to bartend.

Jon gravitated toward bar management because it requires both front of the house expertise and back of the house proficiency. He likes interacting with guests and excels under the pressure of the fast pace that the bar requires.

He enjoys putting his creativity to work when making a cocktail list. He also appreciates his continuing education and the fact that he learns something new every day at EDWINS. In fact, Jon recently passed the level 1 sommelier exam and is studying for level 2.

 


HEATHER PEDERSON, DIRECTOR OF STUDENT AFFAIRS

IMG_7769-e1433968648284-225x300Heather first learned she had a passion for helping others when she was in grade school. She spent a good part of her summers helping her mother take care of her elderly grandmother. This is how Heather learned to be compassionate and how she learned the power of a smile. This blossomed into a variety of different customer service jobs that started with being an associate at the Gap, then a team leader at Atlas Café in Chicago to eventually managing a successful coffee shop for more than three years.

After working in management, Heather decided to pursue her dream of helping underprivileged youth learn about the arts. She currently attends Cuyahoga Community College.

Heather first heard about EDWINS because of her own “break” that she received in life. Since then she has dedicated herself to helping others who are in similar situations to what she was in. She started working at EDWINS in June of 2014 and was quickly promoted to Case Manager once people began to see how she truly wanted to make sure that others had a fair chance to re-start their lives, the way she was.

In her free time, you can find Heather in her garden, cooking new dishes, or walking around the metro parks looking for wild animals.


GRIFFIN JOHNSON, EXTERNAL AFFAIRS ASSISTANTedwins.GriffinJohnson-272x300

Griffin Johnson brings more than two decades of hospitality experience to EDWINS.

Griffin began her culinary education at the Shorby Club and then later Sergio’s. She completed culinary coursework at the Art Institute of Dallas before joining L’Albatross near its inception, gaining extensive knowledge of fine dining practices and French cuisine during her five years there. Griffin helped open Chinato, and then enjoyed a position at Cowell & Hubbard for several years.

Always eager for new challenges, Griffin was excited to join EDWINS to learn more and grow within an organization. The EDWINS’ mission and Brandon’s philosophy of promotion and providing new challenges appealed to her.

Griffin also grew up in the Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood on 116th and Griffing, and she has seen the power of community involvement here. EDWINS provided Griffin with the perfect opportunity to give back while doing something that she loves.

Griffin also coordinates our volunteer needs. If you're interested in learning more about volunteering with EDWINS and donating your time and talents, contact Griffin at Griffin@edwinsrestaurant.org or (216) 921-3333.

 


VALERIE MACZAK-GRIM, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR

A beauty school dropout and former flight attendant, Valerie Maczak-Grim eventually graduated from Kent State University cum laude with a degree in public relations focusing on non-profit management. She ended up far away from the non-profit world, spending a decade as a managing editor and writer for a financial publisher, InvestorPlace Media, overseeing advisory services designed for options traders.

Valerie jumped when an opportunity arose to join the EDWINS family while working alongside her husband, Gerry Grim, EDWINS’ Director of Culinary.

As Development Director, Valerie gets the honor of helping individuals, businesses, community organizations and foundations be a part of the success that EDWINS’ students and alumni are having. She loves meeting new people, cooking with fresh produce from her garden and EDWINS’ escargot.

If you’re interested in making tax-deductible financial or material contributions to benefit EDWINS students, email Valerie Maczak-Grim at Valerie @ edwinsrestaurant.org or call her at (330) 268-7400.

 


DERRICK SPEIGHTS, COMMUNITY OUTREACH COORDINATOR

Derrick’s early career was as a nursing assistant, and he later switched to the hospitality industry, earning credits in a culinary arts program.

He first met EDWINS founder Brandon Chrostowski while working at L’Albatross and, after learning his away around some of Cleveland's best restaurants, he brings more than a decade of guest relations and management experience to EDWINS. He’s naturally engaging and is a skilled relationship builder.

Derrick’s decision for joining the EDWINS’ family was based on one thing: “I want to help people. Before, I got to help people with their dining experience; now I get to help people with their lives.”

Derrick assists with programming at our student campus, the EDWINS Second Chance Life Skills Center, working with both students and volunteers. He also oversees EDWINS’ efforts to establish Culinary Clubs in Ohio's prisons and leads our Town Hall series. To reach Derrick for questions about any of these initiatives, email him at Derrick @ edwinsrestaurant.org or call him at 216-295-5660.


REBECCA CHARLES, RESIDENT ADVISOR

Rebecca Charles, coming from a place of 'second chances' of her own, and having been a part of the EDWINS family previously as interim bar manager, is so pleased to blend nearly 20 years of fine dining experience with her love of helping those who need guidance at our second chance life skills center. As the resident advisor, overseeing daily upkeep of the campus along with helping students realize their potential within the program is her main goal.

Along with current students, Rebecca continues to follow up with EDWINS alumni, maintaining our strong relationship with local restaurants and fellow industry individuals to ensure the success of future EDWINS graduates.

Rebecca lives on campus with her son Jack (who also believes in second chances) where the two of them study art and music along with taking care of our chickens and bees.