By David Waltuck — Director of Culinary Affairs
Brandon Chrostowski is the founder and CEO of EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, Ohio, a restaurant and school that provides culinary training and job placement assistance to formerly incarcerated men and women. Everyone who works there, from the kitchen to the dining room, is a former inmate.
I met Brandon when he worked at my restaurant, Chanterelle, from late 2005 to 2008, starting as a server, and ultimately becoming an assistant general manager. He originally applied and interviewed with my wife, Karen, for a front of the house job. Though he had no dining room experience, he had been cooking for years in a number of excellent restaurants in the U.S. and France. He explained that he wanted to work with us to learn how the front of the house functions.
Brandon and EDWINS are the subject of Thomas Lennon’s documentary “Knife Skills,” which was screened for students at ICE on January 18th and just received an Academy Award nomination for Documentary Short Subject. Brandon took a moment from his busy visit to New York to chat with me about EDWINS and some other projects in the pipeline.
David Waltuck: How did you get your start in restaurants and cooking?
Brandon Chrostowski: I got involved after being arrested and then put on probation. I needed to find something that would keep me busy.
Read on to learn how Brandon founded a groundbreaking restaurant.