Action. Community. Hospitality. Part 4: Edwins

By Sean Kenniff


Sean Kenniff
The staff of Edwin's in Shaker Square, Cleveland
The staff of Edwin's in Shaker Square, Cleveland

Part 4: Edwins

Edwins is a traditional French fine-dining restaurant in Cleveland with a nontraditional staff. Every employee is a formerly incarcerated individual. From the front-of-the-house to the back, they’re carrying the white tablecloth torch for their city. 

“Every human being, regardless of their past, has the right to a fair and equal future,” says Edwins founder and CEO Brandon Chrostowski. As a teen, Chrostowski spent time in jail and avoided prison by receiving probation on the contingency that he find a job. Chrostowski became a busboy, starting down a career path that would lead him to the Culinary Institute of America, and onward to work at Charlie Trotters, Le Cirque, Picholine, and Chanterelle, where he was sommelier. In 2008, he arrived in Cleveland as general manager of L’Albatros, where his vision to provide people with a second chance—just as he had received—began to take shape. 

After much planning and fundraising (to date, Chrostowski has raised more than $6 million for the cause), Edwins opened in 2013, dedicated to teaching formerly incarcerated adults a skilled trade in hospitality and preparing them for a successful transition to the business world at large. In 2016, Edwins expanded to include three nearby buildings to cultivate a campus atmosphere and house students in a place where they can live affordably, work, and learn with the support they need.

Collaborating with other local nonprofits and community leaders, as well as with the judicial system, Chrostowski has woven together a world in which second chances are a moral imperative, a restaurant is a launching pad, and Edwins is a model for good civics and good hospitality on a grand scale.  

The Facts:

Business: Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute
City: Cleveland 
Neighborhood: Shaker Square    
Industry Leader: Brandon Chrostowski 
Year Founded: 2013
Restaurants Gross Revenue Since Opening: $3,000,000
Number of Graduates: 165
Rate of Recidivism among Graduates: 0
Number of Perspective Students Turned Away: 0
Percent of Grads Who are Placed in Jobs: 90+
Number of Ohio prisons for which EDWINS has Developed Curricula: 30
Number of Restaurants Actively Seeking to Employ EDWINS grads: 40, including Cleveland’s Greenhouse Tavern and restaurants across the Atlantic in Normandy, France 
Number of Prisoners Released Annually in Ohio: 20,000 
Percent of all the Released Who are Rearrested within 5 years: 76.6
Next Up: Edwins Butcher Shop, to train students on butchery skills and provide the Buckeye neighborhood with quality meat at a fair price 
Join In, Get Inspired, or Just Eat:

Check back tomorrow for the final part in our 5-part series.

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