restaurant program teaches culinary arts to area's underprivileged

"Ever dream of running your own restaurant as an executive chef, pastry chef or sommelier?"

That is the question asked by leaders of EDWINS Leadership & Restaurant Institute. Fulfilling that dream would be a challenge for most anyone, but what about a person reentering society after incarceration?

Hoping to provide the answer is Brandon Chrostowski, general manager, sommelier and fromanger at L'Albatros restaurant. He is also founder of EDWINS, a Cleveland nonprofit providing free restaurant training to underprivileged adults. The 26-week program teaches cooking methods, pastry techniques, food pairings, nutrition and other facets that come with the culinary arts.

Ohio's recidivism rate stands at about 30 percent, according to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction. Chrostowski, 33, believes these numbers reflect the lack of opportunities available for ex-inmates.

"There's no guidance and no jobs out there," he says. "Our goal is to provide these people with a skill and a solid path."

Students are rotated through every station of a restaurant, providing them with a variety of skills and real-world experience. Over the last two years, the program has assisted about 30 graduates in finding employment as line cooks, dishwashers and servers. Some students have already been promoted from these entry-level positions.

Chrostowski hit his own "rough patch" a decade ago, and was able to go back to school and hone his culinary craft. The restaurateur wants others to have the same opportunity he did. EDWINS' ultimate goal is to open a restaurant staffed entirely by program graduates.

"Everyone deserves a second shot," Chrostowski says. "This is a chance for people to change their lives."
SOURCE: Brandon Chrostowski
WRITER: Douglas J. Guth
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