Our Mission

EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute is a 501(c)(3) organization. We give formerly incarcerated adults a foundation in the culinary and hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary their long-term success. Our mission three-fold: is to teach a skilled and in-demand trade in the culinary arts, empower willing minds through passion for hospitality management, 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, we started teaching in Grafton Correctional Institution. Shortly thereafter, we opened the restaurant on Nov. 1, 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 services, basic medical care, clothing, job coaching, literacy programs and more.

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

Today, between its prison program and restaurant and institute at Shaker Square, EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute graduates nearly 100 students a year.  After finishing the program or after release from prison, our graduates have gained employment in Cleveland’s finest restaurants.

Our results have been astounding: at least 95% employment after graduation and 1.4% recidivism for our graduates.

EDWINS was showcased in the Oscar-nominated documentary Knife Skills by Academy Award Winning director Thomas Lennon. Knife Skills can be viewed here.

We also received three stars from the Cleveland Plain Dealer, were regarded by The New York Times as "High-Stakes Haut Cuisine", were awarded a Cleveland Magazine Silver Spoon recipient for Best French restaurant, and were 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.

We continue our outreach in prisons via our Culinary Clubs and we are also revitalizing a building for our soon-to-open EDWINS Butcher Shop and Training Center. Renovations are underway and the Butcher Shop is expected to open in late 2018. Learn how the Butcher Shop and future endeavors will help solve the problem of re-entry through food.

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 drove the creation of EDWINS.

The idea for EDWINS was born from "a break" that Brandon 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. Students in the program are not only equipped with basic culinary skills, they also receive help with the following: finding employment, free housing, basic medical care, clothing, job coaching, literacy programs and more.

Brandon 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, he decided to return to the United States to further refine what he learned in France. In New York City, he 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 EDUCATION

Edwins_Interiors_Staff_237-300x200Gerry 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, Gerry graduated from Le Cordon Bleu. He shares nearly two decades of practical knowledge with EDWINS' students.

With diverse culinary experiences along the way, the highlights for Gerry 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, Gerry 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.

Gerry 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 Education.


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.


 

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.


JOSH COOPER, SOUS CHEF

Josh Cooper developed an interest in cooking at a young age; his desire to prepare food grew from fond memories of large Sunday family dinners prepared by his grandmother. As a high school student in Cleveland, he worked at local pizza joints such as Geraci’s and Zeppe’s. More recently, he worked as a line cook at Pier W.

Josh began his formal culinary education at EDWINS’ when he entered the program in 2015 graduating six months later. Since then, he has ardently studied the art of cooking and refined his lifelong love for the process.

He enjoys being a members of the EDWINS’ staff because the community is incredibly conducive to personal growth; he feels like he learns something from his mentors and friends each day he spends at the restaurant. To Josh, EDWINS’ feels like more than a job or career: the restaurant feels like another home. He appreciates that he and his coworkers benefit from mutual respect and support and the kitchen is constantly filled with laughter.

Josh not only appreciates EDWINS’ for how it has transformed his life and given him an opportunity to work in such a special environment, but also for its ability to help others. He particularly likes the restaurant’s longstanding commitments to second chances and learning. He feels lucky that such an amazing institution is located in Cleveland.

When he is not cooking, Josh likes to spend time with his two children and play with his dogs. He also enjoys shopping and doing yard work.


KELLY MCKINNEY, SOUS CHEF

Kelly McKinney’s culinary experience began when she entered the program at EDWINS’ in 2014. She was inspired to build on her past careers in both produce and janitorial work when her brother introduced her to the program after bringing home a flier. Prior to joining the program, she had never cooked before beyond preparing food for herself and her children.

Kelly was a member of the second graduating class at the restaurant, leaving the program in September of 2014 to pursue an opportunity to cook at the Music Box Supper Club in Cleveland. She used the skills she developed at EDWINS’ to adapt to a completely new style of cooking; she transitioned from preparing classic French cuisine to dishes from around the globe. After three and a half years at Music Box Supper Club, Kelly rejoined the EDWINS’ community as kitchen manager in 2018.

Kelly observes that despite the growth the restaurant has experienced since her days as a student, some aspects of EDWINS’ have remained the same over the years. The restaurant still feels like a home to her, where she has the opportunity to work and grow alongside incredible people.

She loves that each member of the community has their own story to share and consequently their own experiences and expertise to bring to the table. She is incredibly glad to be back at EDWINS’ and loves working alongside the staff and students once more.

In addition to cooking, Kelly enjoys watching movies and hanging out with her family and friends.


ALEXANDER ROMAN, SOUS CHEF

EDWINS allowed Alexander Roman to turn his hobby of cooking into a viable career.

Alexander’s affinity for the kitchen developed at a very young age. As a child, he found himself drawn to cooking channels and frequently joining his mother as she prepared food for his family. Alexander built on his deep passion for cooking by entering the program at EDWINS in 2016. As a student, he was able to refine his culinary skills and transform what was once a pastime into a job. As a graduate, he applied the lessons he learned at EDWINS to working as a chef at other prominent restaurants in the Cleveland area such as Red, the Steakhouse and Moxie.

Alexander re-entered the EDWINS’ kitchen in 2018 as a sous chef and teacher, rather than a student. He missed the unique relationship between students and teachers that he experienced in the program; the dynamic at EDWINS ensures that his job never feels monotonous as he is doing something new or working with someone different every day.

He is passionate about the restaurant’s commitment to give those who are most in need of a second chance a platform from which they can develop careers. He is incredibly thankful that he has the opportunity to pay forward everything that EDWINS gave to him by mentoring the students: In addition to helping them learn how to cook, he is happily giving them tips on how to navigate the restaurant business after graduating from the program.

When Alexander is not cooking, he enjoys working on his newly-purchased home.


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.


JON BOSWORTH, BEVERAGE DIRECTOR/ASSISTANT GMDSC_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.


CHRISTOPHER KEENEY, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR

Upon moving to Cleveland in 2002 to attend Case Western Reserve University, Chris fell in love with the city and now does his part to make it a better place to live and work.

Chris comes to EDWINS after prior roles with United Way of Greater Cleveland and Cleveland Metropolitan School District. He volunteered on the committee for the school levy renewal, Issue 108, and is currently a mentor with Big Brothers/Big Sisters. Prior to returning to Cleveland in 2015, Chris completed a master’s degree at Edinboro University while working in their Sports Information Department before shifting to development with the annual fund at Allegheny College.

Outside of work, Chris enjoys spending time with friends and family, reading and cheering on Cleveland sports teams.

To learn more about supporting EDWINs, please contact Chris at ChrisKeeney@edwinsrestaurant.org or visit here.

 


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 donating your time and talents to EDWINS, please visit our Volunteer Opportunities here and contact her at Griffin@edwinsrestaurant.org to learn more about volunteering at EDWINS.

 


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.


DEE DRAIN, DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS

His vast experiences as a mortgage broker, real estate agent, culinary professional, and communications manager make Dee a vital part of the EDWINS team.

With a strong political background, Dee, a lifelong Clevelander, has contributed to campaigns for officials as varied as city council members to congressional representatives. Dee was heavily involved with the 2017 Cleveland mayoral election and currently provides political consulting when not at EDWINS.

In his role as Director of External Affairs, Dee devotes his time to building partner relationships and increasing EDWINS’ community presence. If you’re interested in having Brandon Chrostowski and the EDWINS team involved in your event as speakers, presenters or panelists, Dee will be glad to talk with you. He can be reached at dee@edwinsrestaurant.org or 216-548-4754.

Dee said he believes EDWINS is so important because it thrives on supporting a completely underrepresented class of people. “It doesn’t so much coddle returning citizens as it expects the very best of them. I love what I do because I know that my work has meaning.”


HOLLY DAVENPORT, DEVELOPMENT ASSOCIATE

Holly is an August 2018 graduate of EDWINS. She was a cosmetologist for 27 years before pursuing her interest in cooking. She describes herself as a “people person, and organized.” Once she graduated from EDWINS, Holly started a job in food service but jumped at the chance to return to work at EDWINS. She wanted to focus more on “purpose” and felt the position at EDWINS would fulfill the desire to work in the non-profit sector.

At EDWINS Holly will help with the grant process, monitor donations to the Second Chance Center, facilitate new community partnerships, and help with the EDWINS newsletter. She is eager to increase awareness about the EDWINS mission and what the training has to offer to those who need a second chance.

When she isn’t at work, Holly can be found watching and attending football games, attending church, or working on her degree in organizational leadership at CSU. She has a daughter who is attending college. She says, “I’m always feeding people- food and love.”