It’s a serious understatement to observe that, as a young man, Brandon Chrostowski did not seem likely to become a top French chef at restaurants in New York and Paris. Nor was he likely to lead a Cleveland organization helping those newly-released from prison to get positions in such restaurants. Prior to getting his first restaurant job—as a busboy—he had, age 19, held positions at a gas station, a bowling alley and a florist shop, among 22 odd jobs in his native Detroit. His career path, to the extent he had one, was, as he puts it, to be “either dead or in jail.” In fact, he’d already been arrested by federal marshals and faced a 10-year prison term. (The formal charge that stuck was “fleeing and eluding.”) It was a judge’s decision to place him on one year’s probation instead, which led him to that restaurant job—which, once he was taken under the wing of the owner, led him through a long series of unlikely steps—from learning how to poach and to braise, to his acceptance to the famed Culinary Institute of America—and on to New York and Paris.
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