11/12/2019 ASHLAND, Ohio – Brandon Edwin Chrostowski, founder, president and CEO of EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute in Cleveland, will be the speaker at Ashland University’s winter commencement set for Dec. 14 at 10 a.m. in Kates Gymnasium inside the Physical Education Center on the AU campus.
EDWINS Leadership and Restaurant Institute gives formerly incarcerated adults a foundation in the culinary and hospitality industry while providing a support network necessary for their long-term success. Its mission is three-fold: 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.
Chrostowski says he is on a mission to change the face of re-entry in the United States. In 2007, he founded EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute and 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.
Chrostowski said the idea for EDWINS was born from “a break” that he received early in life. His approach is simple: arm those re-entering society with a skill set and a smile. 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.
Chrostowski began his career in Detroit 20 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, Chrostowski began to develop cutting-edge skills, while learning the intricacies of a French kitchen.
After spending time in Europe, he returned 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, Chrostowski also worked closely with Master Sommelier Roger Dagorn and was so inspired he 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 that understands 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.
Chrostowski’s commitment to EDWINS Leadership and 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, the institute graduates more than 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 percent employment after graduation and 1 percent recidivism.
The success of this work and other initiatives led by Chrostowski have earned him numerous 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 of his TED X talk, his speech at The United States Senate and The City Club of Cleveland. Fighting for fair and equal opportunities also has earned Chrostowski media attention 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 also has been featured by Steve Harvey as a Harvey’s Hero, TD Jakes, CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, NPR, WKSU and is the feature of the newly released documentary called Knife Skills by Oscar winner Thomas Lennon.
Chrostowski 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. Chrostowski is a proud father of two, Leo and Lilly, and is crazy about his wife Catana.
Ashland University is a mid-sized, comprehensive private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Religiously affiliated with the Brethren Church, Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) deeply values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students. ###